Obama: Turkey Has the Right to Defend Its Airspace

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) -

President Barack Obama urged Russia and NATO allies to take all steps Tuesday to “discourage any escalation” after a Russian warplane was downed along Turkey’s border with Syria.

“Turkey, like every country, has the right to defend its territory and its airspace,” Obama said during a joint news conference in Washington with French President François Hollande. Their talks focused on the Paris attacks and the broader strategies against the Islamic State.

But Obama called on all sides to “take measures to discourage any escalation.”

Obama did not say whether intelligence reports supported claims by NATO member Turkey that the Russian fighter crossed into Turkish airspace. He said, however, it underscored the risks of Russia’s military operations near the Turkish border.

A U.S.-led coalition is also conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq, raising further fears of potential inadvertent conflicts from the overlapping air campaigns.

While Hollande is working actively to coordinate more closely with Russia, this new overture is likely to create some friction with administration officials.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that if “Russia is prepared to commit the kinds of resources that the United States has in a way that’s integrated with the international community to defeating ISIL, we’d welcome that contribution,” but he expressed deep skepticism over whether that would actually happen.