US urges Turkey and Russia to end row over downed plane

Burning Russian plane. Photo: 24 November 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Russian plane crashed near the Syria-Turkish border after being hit by a missile from a Turkish fighter jet last week

US President Barack Obama has urged Turkey and Russia to reduce tensions, a week after Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane.

After talks with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Paris, Mr Obama reaffirmed US support for "Turkey's right to defend itself and its airspace".

But he stressed that Russia and Turkey should "de-escalate" their dispute.

"We all have a common enemy," Mr Obama said, referring to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.

"I want to make sure that we focus on that threat," he said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionUS President Obama: 'Turkey has right to defend itself'

"Turkey is a Nato ally," he added. "And we're very much committed to Turkey's security and its sovereignty. We discussed how Turkey and Russia can work together to de-escalate tensions and find a diplomatic path to resolve this issue."

US defence secretary Ashton Carter later said Turkey had to do more to combat Islamic State militants , saying it had not effectively controlled its borders to stop the movement of IS fighters.

Speaking in Washington, he urged Turkey to increase its resistance to the jihadists "both in the air and on the ground".

Mr Erdogan also spoke to reporters after Tuesday's meeting with the US president. He said his government wanted to reduce tensions and was "determined to keep up the fight" against IS.

Mr Obama and Mr Erdogan are among 150 leaders attending climate talks in Paris.

Mr Erdogan renewed his criticism of Russian air strikes against Turkmen rebels in north-western Syria, complaining that the area is being "continuously bombed".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionVladimir Putin has said he believes the Russian jet was shot down "to protect oil supply routes to Turkey"

Moscow says Turkey shot down its SU-24 warplane inside Syria on 24 November.

Turkey says the plane entered its airspace and was repeatedly warned to leave before it was downed.

Russia has insisted the plane did not cross the border and that it gave advance notice of the flight path to the US.

One Russian pilot was killed and the other rescued. A Russian marine was killed during the rescue operation.

'Terrorist haven'

Russia is a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its air strikes have targeted rebel groups, including IS.

However, Mr Obama said he expected Russia would eventually be convinced of the need for Mr Assad to leave power.

Russia lists Turkey food sanctions

Image copyright Getty Images

Russia's ban on food imports from Turkey, as from 1 January:

  • Parts of carcasses and offal of turkeys, frozen. Chicken carcasses and sub-products, frozen
  • Fruit including oranges, tangerines, grapes, apples, pears, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, strawberries
  • Vegetables including cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, yellow onions
  • Salt

Excluded: Nuts, lemons

He cautioned that was not expecting "a 180-degree turn" in Russian strategy in the coming weeks but that "a shift in calculations" may occur over the next few months.

Turkey strongly opposes Mr Assad and has been accused of turning a blind eye to jihadist fighters crossing from its territory into Syria.

Image copyright AP
Image caption President Erdogan has vowed to step down if Russia's claim about Turkey's trade with IS is proven

Until a few months ago, Turkey was reluctant to play an active role in the coalition against IS. However, in August it allowed the US-led coalition to begin using its airbase at Incirlik.

Russia has imposed sanctions on Turkey over the downing of the plane, including restrictions on imports of Turkish food and an end to visa-free travel.

On Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin - who is also in Paris - accused the Turkish government of attacking its jet to protect the illegal oil trade with Islamic State .

"We have every reason to think that the decision to shoot down our plane was dictated by the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory," Mr Putin said.

IS earns much of its money from oil fields it controls in north-eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Some of the oil is sold to the Assad regime and some is smuggled through middlemen to Turkey. Mr Erdogan reiterated his denial that his government was involved in the trade.

Mr Putin also accused Turkey of harbouring "terrorist organisations" operating "in various regions of Russia, including the North Caucasus".

The Moscow government earlier said the Su-24 had been attacking "terrorists" from the North Caucasus based inside Syria when the Turkish jets attacked them.

Turkey and Russia have important economic links. Russia is Turkey's second-largest trading partner. More than three million Russian tourists visited Turkey last year.

Related Topics