Top US generals discuss tense Syria situation with Russian military leader

Top US generals discuss tense Syria situation with Russian military leader

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford on Wednesday spoke with his Russian counterpart about the situation in Syria, the second such call in 10 days. 

America's top military officer spoke to Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov about “Syria and other issues of mutual concern,” according to a statement from Dunford’s spokesman, Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder.

“In accordance with past practice, both have agreed to keep the details of their conversation private,” the statement added.

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Dunford last spoke to Gerasimov on March 13, after Gerasimov earlier that day threatened to target U.S. troops in Syria if they moved against the use of chemical weapons by the government of Bashar al-Assad.

That conversation also “focused on issues of mutual concern, to include the situation in Syria,” according to a statement from Ryder.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement Wednesday that Gerasimov also spoke on the phone with U.S. European Command head Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also the NATO Supreme Allied Commander-Europe

The two military leaders “exchanged their views on topical issues of international security,” according to the statement.

In addition, Gerasimov agreed with Scaparrotti on a proposal for the two to meet.

Russia and the United States have been in a tense holding pattern over the slow build-up of pro-Assad fighters, including Russian private military contractors, east of the Euphrates River in Syria.

U.S. forces are in the area to advise the coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

There have been a number of skirmishes in the past several months, including a U.S. strike against pro-Assad forces in February that reportedly killed Russian mercenaries and private military contractors.

Dunford has spoken to Gerasimov more than a dozen times over the past year “in order to avoid miscalculation and to promote transparency in areas where our militaries are operating in close proximity,” the Pentagon said after a conversation between the two on Jan. 10.