US President Barack Obama has urged Ankara and Moscow to de-escalate tensions over the downed Russian jet but reiterated Washington's support for Turkey. Following his talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Obama insisted that Ankara has the right to defend its territories.
Exhorting both sides to focus on the common enemy, the Islamic State (Isis), the American president somewhat echoed the comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the intensification of efforts against the extremist group. The leaders are in Paris for the UN climate change summit when they held talks on the sidelines.
"The United States supports Turkey's right to defend itself and its airspace ... We discussed how Turkey and Russia can work together to de-escalate tensions and find a diplomatic path to resolve the issue," Obama told reporters after meeting Erdoğan. He said: "We all have a common enemy, and that is ISIL, [another acronym for IS] and I want to make sure that we focus on that threat."
Tensions between Russia and Turkey are at an all time high after Ankara's fighter jet shot down Moscow's SU-24 bomber on 24 November for reportedly violating its airspace. One of the two pilots managed to escape the ground fire when he parachuted down while the other was killed.
Erdoğan also addressed a press conference subsequent to his discussions with Obama. He admitted the recent escalation of tensions between Turkey and Russia was hurting both parties.
The Turkish leader said: "The tensions in the region sadden us. It is causing harm to both sides. Our concern is to not come out badly from this but on the contrary to turn this into peace and contribute to the peace in the region."
Putin had earlier claimed Turkey brought down the Russian warplane to protect its oil interests with the IS, a claim Erdoğan rejected. Ankara maintains the jet was shot down because it violated Turkey's territorial airspace.