Belgium suspends air operations above Syria after US strike

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Belgian fighter jet. File photo

ARA News 

The Belgian government on Saturday temporarily suspended air strikes in Syria after Russia stopped its coordination with the US-led coalition. However, a coalition official told ARA News the international coalition continues its air strikes.

“The international coalition looks day by day how the situation evolves,” Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput told VRT news. “If the coalition says it’s safe enough and asks us to continue the missions, we will do that,” he said.

The Belgian government temporarily suspended its missions in Syria after the US hit a Syrian regime airbase in response to chemical attacks on Syrian civilians. Following the strike, the Russian government suspended its coordination with the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

“The Coalition is maintaining its flight operations in support of our partner forces’ defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We refer you to the Belgian government in regards to your query,” Col. Joe Scrocca, United States Army and Director of Public Affairs for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) told ARA News.

A quarter of the missions of Belgian F-16 jets are carried out in Syria, while the rest is carried in Iraq since October 2014. The Belgian fighter jets are based in the al-Azraq base in east Jordan.

“Coalition contributors want to minimize the risk to their militaries,” Washington-based analyst Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News.

“U.S.-Russian deconfliction in Syria is essential to allowing the U.S. Coalition partners to have the peace of mind that they will not be unwillingly thrust into a shooting war between the Americans and the Russians,” Heras said.

“America’s Coalition partners signed up to fight ISIS, not go to war with Russia. The United States and Russia are at a tense standoff in Syria,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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