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Putin: Turkey Shot Down Russian Jet To Protect Islamic State Oil

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a press conference on November 30 in Paris on the sidelines of the climate change summit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of shooting down a Russian warplane in order to protect the Islamic State’s lucrative oil trade, the latest in a series of inflammatory statements made by Moscow against Ankara.

Putin’s comments on November 30, on the sidelines of the Paris climate change summit, underscored Moscow’s continuing anger over the incident, which resulted in the death of a Russian crewman.

"We have every reason to think that the decision to shoot down our plane was dictated by the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory," Putin was quoted as telling reporters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called such claims, previously made by Russian officials, "slander."

Turkey has said its F-16 fired on the Sukhoi Su-24M jet on November 24 after it entered Turkish airspace and that Turkish pilots had issued 10 warnings.

Russia insists the jet was flying over Syria.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman on November 30 said evidence showed the Russian jet had violated Turkish airspace, something that was repeated by U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute.

"The U.S. data I have seen corroborate Turkey's version of the event," Lute said. "The [Russian] airplane was in Turkey; it was engaged in Turkey. It has been warned repeatedly and this is not the first incursion of Russian aircraft into Turkish airspace. So all of that is corroborated by U.S. data."

He also called the Russian jet's incursion into Turkish airspace "very dangerous, unnecessary, and irresponsible."

The coffin of the Russian pilot is carried out of a military hospital morgue by Turkish soldiers for its transfer to Esenboga Airport in Ankara on November 30.
The coffin of the Russian pilot is carried out of a military hospital morgue by Turkish soldiers for its transfer to Esenboga Airport in Ankara on November 30.

Islamic State fighters, who have seized swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, have used different means to fund their effort to fulfill their goals to build a religious state known as a caliphate.

U.S. officials have said oil smuggling had long provided sizable revenues, but U.S.-led air strikes targeting refineries, tankers, and other oil infrastructure have crimped that funding source.

Despite some vaguely conciliatory remarks from Erdogan, neither Moscow nor Ankara has backed down from their positions.

Russia has started restricting some Turkish imports and imposed other commercial limitations.

Erdogan said on November 30 that his government would act "patiently, not emotionally" before deciding whether to reciprocate against Russian sanctions.

News reports said Erdogan had requested to meet with Putin while attending the climate change summit, but Putin rebuffed the request because of Turkey's refusal to apologize for shooting down the Russian jet.

Putin has reportedly met with other world leaders at the talks, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, who has been a key interlocutor with Moscow on the crisis in Ukraine, which is now smoldering and unresolved.

The meeting with Merkel included EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Putin also met before that with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Earlier, Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama met for a 30-minute talk, one of only a few direct conversations the two leaders have had since the Ukraine crisis erupted in full in April 2014.

The White House said Obama urged Putin to ratchet down tensions with Turkey and said Obama expressed regret for the death of the Russian fighter pilot.

A White House official said Obama told Putin that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power as part of any transition in Syria.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the two discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria and both supported starting full talks to reach a political resolution to the war, now in its fifth year.

The U.S. official said Obama called on Putin to focus Russian air strikes on Islamic State militants, not rebels fighting Assad.

Peskov said the two also talked about the need to fully implement the Minsk accords that brought a cease-fire to fighting in Ukraine.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, Interfax
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