Obama Tells Erdogan: U.S., NATO Support Turkey's Right to Defend Sovereignty

U.S. official sides with Turkey, says Russian jet hit inside Syria after incursion into Turkey.

US President Barack Obama gestures during a press conference following the G20 summit in Antalya on November 16, 2015. Obama said on November 16 the United States had no precise intelligence warning of the Paris bombing and shooting attacks that have been claimed by Islamic State group jihadists. The United States has agreed to speed up its sharing of military intelligence with France to try to avert such assaults, the US leader added in a news conference after a summit in Turkey.
AFP

President Barack Obama and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone on Tuesday about the need to de-escalate tensions with Russia after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border, the White House said.

Nonetheless, Obama expressed "U.S. and NATO support for Turkey's right to defend its sovereignty," the White House said in a statement.

"The leaders agreed on the importance of de-escalating the situation and pursuing arrangements to ensure that such incidents do not happen again," the statement said. 

The U.S. believes that the Russian jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday was hit inside Syrian airspace after a brief incursion into Turkish airspace, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The downing of a Russian jet that penetrated Turkish air space, Nov 24, 2015

The official said that assessment was based on detection of the heat signature of the jet. 

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday that it said ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria, killing at least one of the two pilots in a long-feared escalation in tensions between Russia and NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced what he called a "stab in the back" and warned of "significant consequences."

The shoot down — the first time in half a century that a NATO member has downed a Russian plane — prompted an emergency meeting of the alliance. The incident highlighted the chaotic complexity of Syria's civil war, where multiple groups with clashing alliances are fighting on the ground and the sky is crowded with aircraft bombing various targets.

"As we have repeatedly made clear we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after the meeting of the alliance's decision-making North Atlantic Council, called at Turkey's request.

The pilots of the downed Su-24 ejected, but one was killed by Syrian rebel fire from the ground as he parachuted to Earth, said the Russian general staff, insisting the Russian jet had been in Syrian airspace at the time. One of two helicopters sent to the crash site to search for survivors was also hit by rebel fire, killing one serviceman and forcing the chopper to make an emergency landing, the military said.

Stoltenberg urged "calm and de-escalation" and renewed contacts between Moscow and Ankara. Russia has long been at odds with NATO, which it accuses of encroaching on Russia's borders, as well as with Turkey's determination to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime Moscow ally.