Washington (AFP) - US and Russian generals have met to discuss Syria operations, an American officer said Thursday, amid back-and-forth allegations that each side had struck the other's allied ground forces.
Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria, said the officers this week met face-to-face "in the region" to exchange information about Deir Ezzor province, where US-backed local forces are operating ever closer to Russian-backed Syrian regime troops.
"The discussions emphasized the need to share operational graphics and locations to ensure... prevention of accidental targeting or other possible frictions that would distract from the defeat of ISIS," Dillon said, using an alternate acronym for IS.
Russia on Thursday warned the United States of reprisals after artillery fire from an area controlled by the US-backed fighters -- known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) -- in eastern Syria allegedly targeted government troops.
That incident came just days after the coalition and the SDF accused Russian warplanes of bombing SDF fighters east of the Euphrates river, an allegation that Moscow denied.
The high-level military meeting reflects the ever-tightening pressure on IS in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region and near the city of Deir Ezzor itself, where regime forces are fighting IS.
Russian and coalition officials have for nearly two years been exchanging limited information over a so-called "deconfliction" hotline to avoid mishaps in Syria's crowded skies and warn of strikes that might be near each other's ground forces, but this was the first in-person meeting of commanders.
A longtime ally of Syria, Russia stepped into the multi-front conflict in September 2015 and shifted the balance of power in favor of President Bashar al-Assad with extensive air support and other aid.