The top Russian and U.S. generals have discussed ways to avoid accidental conflicts and reduce tensions in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere during a meeting in Helsinki, the two countries' militaries said.
The talks took place on June 8 between Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s military General Staff, and Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"The parties discussed various aspects of settling the crisis in Syria, including issues of bilateral relations and prevention of incidents. They noted the importance of prompt stabilization of the situation in the Syrian Arab republic," the Russian Defense Ministry said.
"The parties addressed reducing tensions and ensuring security in Europe," it said following the meeting.
In a brief statement, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said the two countries’ militaries "have undertaken efforts to improve operational safety and strategic stability."
"Both leaders recognize the importance of maintaining regular communication to avoid miscalculation and to promote transparency and de-confliction in areas where our militaries are operating in close proximity," the U.S. statement said.
The Finnish military said the talks were designed to prevent regional conflicts from escalating, including those in Syria and Ukraine.
Both military leaders had separate meetings late on June 8 with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
"It is important and a positive thing that this of kind dialogue takes place," Niinisto's office said afterwards. "Finland is happy to provide facilities for these kind of meetings."
Relations between Moscow and Washington and their militaries were severely damaged in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its aid for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In April, Gerasimov met with NATO Supreme Allied Commander Curtis Scaparrotti in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, as part of efforts to ease tensions.