Obama urges Russia and Turkey to focus on ISIL
Paris: Aiming to head off a rift between major Mideast players, President Barack Obama urged Turkey and Russia yesterday to set aside tensions over the downing of a Russian warplane and focus on the common priority of defeating the Islamic State group.
Bonding over ‘bombing’? Barack Obama (right) speaks to Turkish president Recep Erdogan before a bilateral meeting, in Paris. Pics/PTI
Obama, in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vouched for the NATO ally’s right to self-defence, and he pledged US commitment “to Turkey’s security and its sovereignty.”
Yet he emphasised the need for Turkey and Russia to “de-escalate” their conflict and not get distracted from the campaign against IS and efforts to resolve Syria’s long-running civil war. “We all have a common enemy. That is ISIL,” Obama said, using one of several acronyms for the extremist group.
After IS claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and shooting down a Russian jet in Egypt, Obama had sought to turn the outrage across Europe into newfound resolve for stepping up the fight against IS.
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Amid tensions after the warplane downing two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of shooting its plane down to protect supplies of oil from the IS. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuted Russia’s “baseless” claims and said he would “quit” if the allegations were proven.
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Sitting down with Erdogan during the talks, Obama said the US was very interested in accelerating its military relationship with Turkey. He also praised Turkey for generously accepting refugees fleeing violence in Syria, and credited Turkey with strengthening security along its border. Sounding optimistic about a new diplomatic effort in Vienna aimed at a ceasefire in Syria’s civil war, Erdogan said he hoped it would result in “sigh of relief for everyone.”