Russia and U.S. to Hold Talks Over Airstrikes to 'Avoid Unintended Incidents'

The U.S. and Russia are to hold talks as early as Thursday about the issue of airstrikes in Syria, according to both countries' senior ministers. Speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said both countries needed to "establish channels of communication to avoid any unintended incidents," according to the BBC.

On Wednesday, Russian aircraft conducted 20 missions in the war-torn country. The Russian Ministry of Defence said that the "surgical strikes" were against ground targets in areas controlled by the militant group ISIS. However, both Kerry and French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed concerns that Russia was hitting non-ISIS targets. "Russian forces struck Syria and curiously didn't hit Islamic State," Le Drian told French politicians in Paris on Wednesday. Kerry added that he would have "grave concerns" if the strikes weren't hitting ISIS.

Both the U.S. and France are conducting airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria and Iraq. On Wednesday, France's first assault on the group killed at least 30 jihadists, according to the monitoring group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Both countries are worried that Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, may be targeting any forces that are opposed to the president. On Wednesday the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported that Russia had aimed the airstrikes at U.S.-backed rebels. The U.S. added that it had only been informed of Russia's planned offensive an hour before they took place.

Russia's Defence Ministry denied these claims, issuing a statement that siad they had "hit eight [ISIS] facilities, including munition, armament and [fuel] storages, combat vehicles, command and communication posts." The statement added that pilots had "completely destroyed HQ and coordination centers of the ISIS troops located in the mountains." But Syrian opposition activists, quoted by the BBC, say that Russian strikes also hit the towns of Zafaraneh, Rastan and Talbiseh, resulting in the deaths of 36 civilians, including children.

On Monday, in separate speeches at the U.N. general assembly, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin clashed over the issue of Assad's future, with Putin wanting him to remain in control and Obama criticizing Russia's ongoing support for the Syrian president.