U.S. Bids to Stop Russia Greek Flights Amid Syria ‘Build-Up’

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The U.S. has asked Greece to revoke special permission for Russian overflights after expressing concern about reports Moscow is engaged in a military build-up in Syria.

Greece is considering a U.S. request to cancel a temporary permit for Russian civilian overflights for Sept. 1-24, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Koutras said by phone.

The New York Times reported Sept. 5, citing unidentified U.S. administration officials, that Russia filed military overflight requests with neighboring countries through September as it stepped up military activity in Syria. Russia sent an advance military team and prefabricated housing for as many as 1,000 people as well as a portable air-traffic control station to a Syrian airfield, the NYT said.

Russia is aware of the U.S. request to Greece to block its overflights and is waiting for the Greek decision, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told reporters on a conference call on Monday.

“Until there is a reaction from Athens, it will be premature to say anything,” Dmitry Peskov said. He declined to comment on the reports of a Russian military build-up in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Sept. 5 to discuss Syria and express concern “about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up there,” the State Department said.

Russia has denied any direct military intervention after other reports last week that Russian troops and jets are fighting in Syria. President Vladimir Putin has said his country is training and supplying the Syrian army.

Russia, still under U.S. and European sanctions over the standoff in Ukraine, has been at the center of a flurry of diplomatic activity focused on efforts to resolve the more than four-year Syrian conflict. The biggest sticking point remains the future of Russia’s long-standing ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom the U.S. and its European and Arab allies want removed from power.

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