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Russia will pull out of Syria coalition if downing of jet is repeated, says Putin

Russia will pull out of Syria coalition if downing of jet is repeated, says Putin

Russian president agrees closer ties to defeat Islamic State but says any more ‘unacceptable’

Staff and agencies
Friday 27 November 2015 02.45 GMT

incidents would mean ‘an end to cooperation with anybody’
Russia will pull out of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria if there was any repeat of the shooting down of its fighter jet by Turkey, Vladimir Putin has warned.

Speaking after talks in the Kremlin with French president Francois Hollande, Putin voiced lingering anger at Turkey’s actions, saying he viewed the downing of the jet as an act of betrayal by a country Moscow had thought was its friend.

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And while Putin said Moscow was ready to keep cooperating with western powers against the “mutual enemy” of Isis, he said the downing of the jet by Turkey this week was “unacceptable”.

“We are ready to cooperate with the coalition which is led by the United States. But of course incidents like the destruction of our aircraft and the deaths of our servicemen ... are absolutely unacceptable,” Putin said at a news conference with Hollande.

“And we proceed from the position that there will be no repeat of this, otherwise we’ll have no need of cooperation with anybody, any coalition, any country.”

The Russian leader said, under the cooperation already established with the US-led coalition, Russia’s military had passed on details of the flight plan of the jet that was shot down this week.

“Why did we pass this information to the Americans? Either they were not controlling what their allies were doing, or they are leaking this information all over the place,” Putin said.

Hollande was on the latest leg of a diplomatic mission to build a common front against the militant Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris two weeks ago that killed 130 people. He met US president Barack Obama on Tuesday and has also asked David Cameron to swing the British military behind the campaign.

With Russia suffering an Isis-suspected attack on a passenger jet in the Sinai peninsula in October, killing all 224 people on board, Hollande and Putin agreed to greater military cooperation.

They would “exchange information about which territories are occupied by the healthy part of the opposition rather than terrorists, and will avoid targeting them with our airstrikes”, Putin said.

Russia was ready to cooperate with other groups ready to fight Isis and he reaffirmed Moscow’s long-standing view that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was also an ally in the fight against terrorism.

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“I believe that the fate of the president of Syria must stay in the hands of the Syrian people,” Putin said, describing the Syrian army as a “natural ally” if Isis was to be defeated on the ground.

Hollande, in contrast, said the Syrian head of state “does not have his place in Syria’s future”.

Both Russia and France have stepped up their aerial bombing campaigns in Syria since the attacks in Paris. Both leaders said strikes against vehicles transporting oil across territory controlled by Islamic State would increase and thereby deliver a blow to a key source of financing for the militant group.

But Putin used the media conference to continue the war of words over the downing of the jet by repeating accusations against Turkey of turning a blind eye to oil smuggling by Islamic State.

He said it was “theoretically possible” that Ankara was unaware of oil supplies entering its territory from Isis-controlled areas of Syria but added that this was hard to imagine.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev alleged on Wednesday that Turkish officials were benefiting from Isis oil sales, while foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said it was no secret that “terrorists” use Turkish territory.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in Ankara on Thursday, rejected the accusations. “Shame on you. It’s clear where Turkey buys its oil and gas ... Those who claim we are buying oil from [Isis] like this must prove their claims. Nobody can slander this country.

“If you are seeking the source of weaponry and financial power of [Isis], the first place to look is the Assad regime and countries that act with it,” he said.

Hollande said the downing of the Russian jet highlighted the need for countries to coordinate their military activities more closely to avoid a possible repetition of what he called a “regrettable incident“. He again called for a “de-escalation” of the tensions between Moscow and Ankara.

Meanwhile France will on Friday mourn the victims of the Paris attacks, with Hollande leading a solemn ceremony in the capital.

Families of those killed will join some of the wounded at ceremonies at the Invalides, the gilded 17th-century complex in central Paris that houses a military hospital and museum and Napoleon’s tomb.

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