Le Bourget, France: US President Barack Obama led calls Tuesday for Turkey and Russia to end their dispute over the downing of a Russian fighter jet and focus instead on the real enemy — Islamic State group or Daesh militants.
It came as Obama´s Pentagon chief said the US would increasingly rely on special operations forces to battle Daesh fighters in Iraq and Syria, where the extremists have seized huge swathes of territory including oil fields used to fund their activities.
The US president said he was sure that Russia would soon change tack in Syria and back a political solution to the bloody conflict after years of supporting long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad, who Washington insists must step down.
And NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey and Russia to find a way to avoid a repeat of the jet incident, which threatens to scupper efforts to forge a common anti-IS front in the wake of attacks in Paris claimed by the group that left 130 dead.
Obama was frank about what both sides should do.
“I want to be very clear: Turkey is a NATO ally. The US supports Turkish rights to defend itself and its airspace and its territory,” Obama said after meeting his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Paris.
“We all have a common enemy and that is ISIL, and I want to make sure we focus on that threat,” Obama said, using an alternative name for Daesh.
Erdogan, who has demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin provide evidence to back up charges Ankara trades in oil with the Daesh group, said he too was keen to move on.
“We are always willing to resort to the diplomatic language (…) we want to avoid the tensions,” he said.