US, Russia discuss Syria, missile defense at Pentagon

The top US military officer met Thursday with his Russian counterpart, discussing missile defense and the Syria crisis, amid tensions between Washington and Moscow on the issue, the Pentagon said.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted a full honor cordon for Russian armed forces chief Nikolai Makarov, the country's first deputy defense minister, during which a 19-gun salute was fired in a rare show of pomp by the Pentagon.

The meeting between the officials and their delegations came as Russia rejected as "unacceptable" the text of a Western-backed UN Security Council resolution on Syria, announcing it would use its veto if the draft is brought to a vote.

But the talks at the Pentagon mainly focused on plans for a NATO-backed missile defense shield in Europe, according to a statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Efforts to set up the ambitious project essentially based on US technology have angered Moscow, which wants guarantees saying the system would not be aimed at or used against it at any time.

NATO has said the system does not target Russia but rather a threat from the Middle East, in particular Iran.

The two military leaders also discussed the war in Afghanistan, developments in the Middle East, as well as Washington's strategic focus on the Asia-Pacific region, the statement said.

by Jean-Louis Santini © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Jul 13, 2012