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U.S. and Russia near deal for sharing Syrian skies

U.S. and Russian military officials are hammering out the final details of an agreement that will help their air forces operate safely in the same airspace over Syria, a defense official said.

"There are continuing technical-level discussions going on, on specific wording ... broadly speaking, we do expect a memorandum of understanding to be signed and finalized soon," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday.

The potential agreement comes after three high-level meetings between U.S. and Russian military officials following the Sept. 30 launch of Russian airstrikes in Syria.

U.S. and Russian aircraft have come into visual contact in the skies over Syria on several occasions.

Military officials say it is "dangerous" to have warplanes in the same airspace without any rules or operations-level communication between the two militaries.

"We are very hopeful, again, that these specific flight safety protocols can be put in place as quickly as possible so that we don't have to worry about those going forward," said Peter Cook, another Defense Department spokesman.

The U.S. opposes the Russian airstrikes in support of ground forces loyal to Syrian leader Bashar al Assad. The U.S. opposes Assad and says his removal is key to any resolution to the civil war in that nation that is now in its fifth year.

Since the start of the Russian air campaign, Russian aircraft have conducted more than 80 strikes. Russia claims to be targeting Islamic State militants, but U.S. military officials say only a fraction of those strikes have hit areas controlled by the militants.

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