France’s president, Francois Hollande, met with Russian president, Vladmir Putin, in Moscow on Thursday to discuss cooperating in the war against terror. Hollande has been on the road, speaking with President Barak Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi earlier in the week, in an attempt to organize a multi-national effort to battle terror, specifically the Islamic State, known by the acronym ISIS or the Arabic acronym Daesh. ISIS was responsible for the recent attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. ISIS also claimed responsibility for downing a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula last month, killing 224 people.
Hollande was optimistic about their two countries cooperating.
“We agreed on a very important issue: To strike the terrorists only, Daesh and the jihadi groups only, and not to strike the forces and the groups that are fighting against the terrorists. We are going to exchange some information about that: what can be struck, and what must not be struck,” Hollande said at a news conference held alongside Putin.
Nonetheless, the two leaders still disagree over Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Hollande addressed this issue.
“From France’s view, it’s clear that Assad does not have his place in Syria’s future.”
“Russia supports Assad and we claim his regime is the most effective way to fight ISIS. I believe that the fate of the president of Syria must stay in the hands of the Syrian people,” Putin said at the press conference.
Western countries, including the United States, consider Assad a despot, blaming him for the nearly 300,000 deaths in his country’s four year civil war. This has put Russia and the USA at odds. The West supports groups rebelling against Assad, while Russia targets these groups. This led to a situation in which US backed rebels fired US made missiles at a Russian rescue helicopter last week, killing a Russian soldier.
At the press conference, Putin harshly criticized the U.S. for not preventing Turkey, its NATO ally, from downing the Russian SU-24 bomber, which resulted in the death of one Russian pilot, claiming that Russia had informed the U.S. about its military flights in the area in advance..
“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. “We proceed from the assumption that it will never happen again. Otherwise we don’t need any such cooperation with any country.”
Both Russia and France have intensified their airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, with Russia targeting trucks transporting oil, a major source of income for the terror organization. At the press conference, Hollande also stated that this was a necessary step in the war on terror.
Tensions in the region are particularly high since Turkey shot down the Russian jet, however the tensions between the two countries runs deeper than that. Russia has accused Turkey of propping up ISIS by purchasing oil from them. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the claims.
“Shame on you. It’s clear where Turkey buys its oil and gas … Those who claim we are buying oil from Daesh like this must prove their claims. Nobody can slander this country. If you are seeking the source of weaponry and financial power of Daesh, the first place to look is the Assad regime and countries that act with it,” he said.
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said his country is considering limiting flights to and from Turkey, and cancelling a joint free trade zone, and other projects, including the TurkStream gas pipeline and a $20 billion nuclear power plant Russia is building in Turkey.