US, Russian Defense Chiefs Have Rare Direct Talks

They discuss Syria, the first time they've spoken in more than a year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 18, 2015 11:32 AM CDT
US, Russian Defense Chiefs Have Rare Direct Talks
In this Aug. 20, 2015 file photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter called his Russian counterpart today, the first step in direct military talks proposed by Russia about Moscow's military buildup to support the Syrian government against ISIS. The 50-minute conversation marked the first time that American and Russian defense chiefs have spoken in more than a year amid US anger over Russian invasion and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and bewilderment over how to respond to Russia's increased support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Carter and Russia Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had a constructive talk about the need to "de-conflict" the Russian buildup with the anti-Islamic State effort.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov issued a statement noting that "the course of the conversation has shown that the sides' opinions on the majority of issues under consideration are close or coincide. The ministers noted the restoration of contacts between the countries' defense ministries and agreed to continue consultations." Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London that President Obama believes military-to-military discussions with Russia are "an important next step" as the US and its allies seek to resolve a worsening Syria crisis while also trying to understand Russia's burgeoning role. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov first broached the idea earlier this week in a phone call with Kerry. Click for more on the latest developments. (More Russia stories.)

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