US President Barack Obama suggested some blame lies with Russia after one of its military jets was shot down after it supposedly violated Turkish airspace on Tuesday.
During a press conference with French President Francois Hollande, Obama said that “if Russia is directing its energies toward Daesh and ISIL,” the group also known as ISIS, “some of those conflicts or potentials for mistakes or escalation are less likely to occur.”
Obama emphasised the need to avoid these escalations.
“Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace,” Obama said. “I think it’s very important right now for us to make sure that both the Russians and the Turks are talking to each other to find out exactly what happened and take measures to discourage any kind of escalation.”
After the jet was shot down, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the “tragic event” would “have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations.”
The Turkish military said on Tuesday that it downed a Russian jet that violated the country’s airspace and that the aircraft did not respond to repeated warnings. Russia has been bombing targets in Syria, which shares a border with Turkey, under the guise of fighting ISIS. Experts say, however, that Russia has been hitting moderate Syrian rebels more often than actual ISIS targets.
“I do think that this points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border and they are going after moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries,” Obama said at the press conference.
He continued later: “If their priority is attacking the moderate opposition that might be future members of an inclusive Syrian government, Russia is not going to get the support of us or a range of other members of the coalition.”
Both Obama and Hollande also noted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wouldn’t have a role to play in the future of Syria. This runs counter to Russia’s interests, as the country has been propping up the Assad regime. Russia is one of Syria’s biggest allies, and Putin has vowed to stand by Assad.
Syria has been ripped apart by a civil war that started in 2011 and still continues to drag. Jihadist groups, including ISIS, are fighting for control in some areas of the country, and moderate rebels who oppose Assad are fighting both jihadists and the regime.
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