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Obama, Erdogan Call For 'De-Escalation' After Downing Of Russian Jet

by RFE/RL November 25, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed on the need to reduce tensions after Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane that Ankara says had violated the country's airspace, the two leaders' offices said.

In a November 24 telephone call, Obama and Erdogan "agreed on the importance of de-escalating the situation and pursuing arrangements to ensure that such incidents do not happen again," the White House said in a statement.

Both the White House and Erdogan's office said that Obama expressed U.S. and NATO support for Turkey's right to defend its sovereignty.

The incident near Turkey's border with Syria has enraged Moscow, which insists that its jet was inside Syrian territory when it was shot down on November 24.

One of the Russian jet's two crew members was killed in the incident, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called a 'crime' and a 'stab in the back.'

Since late September, Russian bombers have been pounding Islamic State (IS) militants and other Syrian rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's ally.

Turkey, a NATO member, is fiercely opposed to Assad's rule and has sided with the U.S.-led coalition that has been targeting IS positions inside Syria since last year.

Criticism Of Air Campaign

Speaking earlier at a White House news conference with French President Francois Hollande earlier on November 24, Obama repeated his criticism of Russia's air campaign in Syria, which U.S. and European officials have said has overwhelmingly targeted moderate Syrian rebels, rather than extremist groups.

"I do think that this points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations, in the sense that they are operating very close to the Turkish border, and they are going after moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but by a wide range of countries," Obama said.

The White House added that Obama and Erdogan 'reiterated their shared commitment to efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy' IS forces.

In a separate statement, the White House said that Obama met with his National Security Council on November 24 to discuss the response to the string of recent terrorist attacks that IS militants have claimed credit for.

Obama told his national security team to 'continue to intensify ongoing efforts' against the extremist group, the White House statement said.

It added that Obama 'was briefed that there is currently no specific, credible threat to the homeland' from IS militants.

With reporting by AFP

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/obama-erdogan-phone- call-turkey-russia-jet/27385441.html

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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