Russia-US agree Syria air deal
The Russian and US chiefs of general staff agreed on Saturday to fully resume the implementation of a joint memorandum on preventing mid-air incidents over Syria, Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying.
Russian General Valery Gerasimov and General Joseph Dunford of the United States discussed in a phone call the Syria de-escalation zones and agreed to continue working on additional measures aimed to avoid clashes in Syria.
The aircraft safety memorandum was signed in October 2015 after Russia began bombing targets in Syria to support Syrian government forces in their fight against Islamic State and other armed groups.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement that Dunford and Gerasimov "talked about the recent Astana agreement and affirmed their commitment to de-conflicting operations in Syria. Both also agreed to maintain regular contact."
An agreement reached at peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, and backed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, calls for "de-escalation zones" in major areas of conflict between Syrian government forces and rebel groups, reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, dozens of Islamic State group fighters cornered in a northern part of Syria's Tabqa are holding off US-backed forces that hold almost all of the city, a monitor said yesterday.
Tabqa sits on the Euphrates River and on a strategic supply route about 55 kilometres (35 miles) west of Raqa, the Syrian heart of IS's so-called caliphate.
In their drive for Raqa, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have captured more than 90 percent of Tabqa, but have not been able to fully clear the jihadists out of the city or the adjacent dam.
In Iraq, government forces faced stiff resistance from Islamic State in northwest Mosul yesterday after opening a new front against the militants there in a push to rout them from the city after seven months of fighting.
Trapped in a steadily shrinking area of the city, the militants are fighting back with a barrage of suicide car bombs and snipers concealed amongst hundreds of thousands of civilians they are effectively holding hostage.
Meanwhile, suicide attackers from the IS group killed two Kurdish peshmerga forces yesterday in an operation against a base in northern Iraq.
"Two members of the peshmerga were killed and five wounded in a suicide attack on K1 base," a major general in the peshmerga told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said five armed men wearing suicide belts attacked the base, where he said foreign advisers from the US-led coalition assisting Iraq against the jihadists were stationed.
"The attack was thwarted and all the attackers were killed," said the officer.
Wista Rasool, another senior peshmerga officer in the area, confirmed the attack, which targeted a base between the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk and the IS-held town of Hawija.