Wed, 19 Jun 2019

The United States is trying to downplay the shootdown of a Russian military surveillance plane off the Syrian coast, with officials expressing sorrow and also saying the U.S. campaign against Islamic State fighters would continue.

The comments September 18 came as Russian officials said that Syrian anti-aircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time.

U.S. officials said U.S. forces had no role to play in the incident.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing sorrow for the shootdown, which killed at 15 Russian servicemen. And he also criticized Iran, which has reportedly shipped sophisticated weaponry to the Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon.

Israel has struck targets in both Lebanon and Syria, seeking to thwart Hizbullah's ambitions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, told reporters that the shootdown complicates relations between Syria's and Russia's government but would have 'no effect whatever' on the U.S. campaign to defeat Islamic State fighters in Syria.

Mattis also said the incident was also a reminder of why the U.S. supports the United Nations effort to end the 7-year civil war.

President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a 'very sad thing' and said it was 'not a good situation.'

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against conducting air raids on Syria.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin to express sorrow over the plane's loss, but insisted that Syria bore responsibility

With reporting by AP, Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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