President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande met today at the White House to talk about how best combat ISIS. They stated in a joint news conference that both countries wanted Russia to focus its attacks in Syria on Islamic State militants after Turkey raised tensions in the region by downing a Russian plane.
Both Obama and Hollande also urged Russia and Turkey to not allow things to get out of hand. Both men were quick to condemn Turkey, a NATO ally, for shooting down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border after it repeatedly violated Turkish air space.
President Obama said the United States did not have enough information yet to form conclusions about the incident, but said similar confrontations could be avoided in the future if Russia stopped attacking “moderate” Syrian rebels who are battling forces loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“This points to a 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. If Russia directs its energies toward Islamic State forces, “some of those conflicts or potentials for mistakes or escalation are less likely to occur.”
Meanwhile, Russia is supporting Assad’s government. Western nations insist Assad needs to step down for peace to take hold in Syria. United States military officials said the Russian aircraft’s entry into Turkish air space lasted seconds. Russia condemned the Turkish action, vowing severe consequences.
“We must prevent an escalation. That would be extremely damaging,” Hollande said.