The U.S. will be working in the "coming hours" to defuse tensions with Russia and re-establish a war zone deconfliction line after an F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian bomber, the Joint Chiefs chairman said Monday.
Gen. Joe Dunford said the two countries were still in communication this morning, but after Russia announced that the line was shut down, the U.S. would be working diplomatically and militarily Monday to convince Russia to return to the communication line, which both countries have used for the past eight months to avoid military conflicts in Syria.
Russia said it would stop using the deconfliction line and consider U.S. aircraft "targets" when they fly west of the Euphrates River due to the incident. The Pentagon said the Syrian Su-22 bomber continued to attack U.S.-backed rebels in northern Syria and was only shot down after warnings to back off.
"We have an effective link between our operations center in Qatar and the Russian Federation on the ground in Syria," Dunford said. "That link is still ongoing here this morning. When I left the building this morning we've still been communicating over the last few hours.
"I think the worst thing any of us could do would be to address this with hyperbole," he said.
Dunford repeated said Monday that the coming hours would be crucial to solving the situation with Russia, which intervened in the civil war on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"The Russian Federation has indicated that their purpose in Syria like ours is the defeat of ISIS and we'll see if that is true here in the coming hours," he said.
Russia called the incident a "cynical violation of Syria's sovereignty."
"Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.
The U.S. and coalition forces were continuing to conduct operations throughout Syria aimed at the Islamic State and providing backing of Syrian fighters on the ground, according to Col. Ryan Dillon, chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
"We are aware of the Russian statements," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis a Pentagon spokesman. "We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened."
The Pentagon urged Russia to continue using the deconfliction line to avoid military miscalculations and to de-escalate tense situations as both countries intervene in Syria's long-running civil war.
"We used the de-confliction line yesterday and remain open to using it. It has proven its worth in the past to tap down tensions in the past," Dillon said.