US, France warn against escalation after Russia jet downing

24th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

France and the United States joined NATO and the United Nations in calling for a de-escalation of tensions Tuesday after Turkey shot down a Russian war plane over its volatile border with Syria.

Ankara has said its jets shot down the Russian aircraft after it violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five-minute period, a move that Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced as a "stab in the back" by another key player in Syria's brutal civil war.

US President Barack Obama, shortly after meeting with his French counterpart Francois Hollande at the White House, urged calm and said diplomacy should be allowed to work.

"I think it is very important for us to right now make sure that both the Russians and the Turks are talking to each other and find out exactly what happened, and take measures to discourage any kind of escalation," Obama told reporters.

"Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and airspace," he said.

But Obama said his top priority "is going to be to ensure that this does not escalate."

"Hopefully, this is a moment in which all parties can step back and make a determination as to how their interests are best served."

Moscow has insisted that the jet had stayed inside Syrian territory.

The shoot-down was the first incident of its kind since Russia launched air strikes in Syria in September in support of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The Russian warplanes have been pounding Syrian rebels and Islamic State fighters, and they have raised western concerns about a possible clash with US-led coalition planes also flying missions over Syria.

Hollande called the air clash "serious" and regrettable, and said Turkey was providing relevant information to NATO in order to help determine what happened.

"But we must prevent an escalation. That would be extremely damaging," Hollande said.

"We must find a solution to this Syrian crisis, because we can see what the risks are otherwise."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for urgent measures to de-escalate the tensions, saying a "credible and thorough review" of the incident would help clarify what happened and prevent a repeat.

Despite the spike in tensions, there was no immediate request for an emergency UN Security Council meeting.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, whose country chairs the council this month, said a meeting could be held if requested and that the incident was not raised during a morning session.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg made similar appeals for calm.

"As we have repeatedly made clear, we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey," Stoltenberg said after an emergency meeting of all 28 members requested by Ankara.

"I look forward to further contacts between Ankara and Moscow and call for calm and de-escalation. Diplomacy and de-escalation are important to resolve this situation," he said.

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© 2015 AFP

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