On March 4, after a long break, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces General Valery Gerasimov met in Vienna with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US armed forces General Joseph Dunford at his request.
The conversation between the two defense chiefs was mainly devoted to the exchange of views on the situation in Syria and ways of establishing cooperation "on the ground". For the Pentagon, this issue is particularly important on the eve of stepping up the partial withdrawal of American troops from this Arab country. Even though the parties managed to reach a full understanding to prevent incidents in the airspace, the situation "on the ground" is completely different, which has already led to an aggravation around the US military base of Al-Tanf.
A few days ago, three convoys with UN humanitarian aid (over 160 trucks) under the protection of Russian military police units (over 100 armored vehicles) managed to battle through to the Rukban refugee camp, located in the control zone of the American Al-Tanf garrison at the border crossing with Iraq and Jordan. Prior to this case, the Russian military escorted the first column following a series of protracted negotiations.
This time, the Americans deliberately prevented the departure of the already formed column, referring to some groundless reasons. Commanders of the Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in the Syrian Arab Republic had to made the final decision on the convoy's departure at their own risk and to ensure its safety by sending combat helicopters to accompany it. Regardless of the American-declared no-fly zone within a radius of 50 km from Al-Tanf. The refugee camp is located near the US air force garrison.
The conversation between the Russian and American military leaders was notable for its discreet, mutually respectful and frank nature. Despite the profound contrast in approaches to the Syrian crisis settlement, the parties agreed on a mechanism to coordinate the routine issues of their contingents' actions, without getting into political details.
The negotiations failed to beget a joint communiqué. However, as revealed by credible sources, the parties agreed to establish direct contacts on controversial issues in order to prevent aggravation of relations and to have regular contacts.