Turkey has right to defend its airspace: Obama

Obama said this points to an 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.

PTI| Last Updated: Nov 25, 2015, 04:32 AM IST

Washington: Turkey has the right to defend its territory and its airspace, US President Barack Obama today said as he discouraged escalation of tension between Russia and Turkey after Turkish forces shot down a Russian fighter jet on its border with Syria.

"We are still getting the details of what happened. And I expect to be in communications, potentially directly, with (Turkish) President sometime over the next several days," Obama told a crowded joint news conference with the French President Francois Hollande.

"Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace. I think it's very important right now for us to make sure that both the Russians and the Turks are talking to each other, find out exactly what happened and take measures to discourage any kind of escalation," Obama said.

Obama said this points to an 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.

"And if Russia is directing its energies towards Daesh and ISIL, some of those conflicts or potentials for mistakes or escalation are less likely to occur.

"This underscores the importance of us making sure that we move this political track forward as quickly as possible. Like President Hollande, our view from the start has been that Russia is welcome to be part of this broad-based coalition that we have set up," Obama said.

Responding to a question, Obama said he does not have all the information yet.

"So I do not want to comment on the specifics. We will be gathering all that information. We expect the Turks to provide information. I'm sure the Russians will have some information. We will be able to confirm what happened in part through our own intelligence and our own tracking of that border area," he said.

"As Francois (Hollande) indicated, my top priority is going to be to ensure that this does not escalate. And, hopefully, this is a moment in which all parties can step back and make a determination as to how their interests are best served," Obama said.