A week after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syria border, President Obama continued his effort to refocus the battle against the Islamic State, while deescalating tensions between Russia and Turkey.
Speaking at a news conference in Paris today, Obama said he is “confident” the United States and its allies will “continue building momentum” to defeat ISIS.
“I am confident that we can continue building momentum and adding resources to our effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” the president said, using the government’s acronym for ISIS, or the Islamic State.
The United States and its allies are also working to disrupt terror plots and to promote a political solution in Syria, he added.
The president lauded the French people for hosting a major international climate conference this week, calling it a “remarkable display of resolve” two weeks after the terror attacks that rocked Paris and left 130 people dead.
“The first place I visited when I arrived on Sunday night was the Bataclan so that I could pay my respects on behalf of the American people who share the French people’s resolve,” he said of the theater that terrorists attacked Nov. 13. “It was a powerful reminder of the awful human toll of those attacks.”
Leaders from around the globe set upon Paris for the highly publicized summit. But while they may have preferred to discuss carbon emissions, global terrorism dominated the headlines coming from Paris.
Obama held a bilateral meeting earlier today with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging the Turkish leader to "deescalate tensions" between Turkey and Russia.
“I want to be very clear: Turkey is a NATO ally. Along with our allies, the United States supports Turkey's right to defend itself, and its airspace and its territory, and we're very much committed to Turkey's security and its sovereignty,” Obama said after the meeting.
“We all have a common enemy and that is ISIL and I want to make sure that we focus on that threat and I want to make sure that we remain focused on the need to bring about some sort of political resolution in Syria."
Erdogan said Turkey is “willing to resort to diplomatic language” to resolve the tension between his country and Russia.
“We don’t want to invest in tensions. We want to avoid the tensions. We don’t want to get hurt and we don’t want no one to get hurt,” Erdogan said. “We want peace to prevail at all times and we want the peace which will prevail.”
The meeting came one day after Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Obama said "it is possible" Putin could shift Russia’s Syria strategy in the next few months – but predicted he won’t make a 180-degree turn on their strategy over the next several weeks, particularly until Russia recognizes the threat that ISIL poses to its country.
“They have invested for years now in keeping Assad in power," Obama said. "Their presence there is predicated on propping him up and so that’s going to take some time for them to change how they think about the issue.”
Observing that the Russians have been involved in Syria for “several weeks, over a month,” the president said the situation on the ground there "hasn’t changed significantly.”
The president repeated his belief that “there is not going to be a military resolution to the situation in Syria" and predicted Putin is not looking for an outcome in Syria where he would “simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict.”