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Kremlin says Western powers 'not ready' to work in anti-IS coalition with Russia

Kremlin says Western powers 'not ready' to work in anti-IS coalition with Russia

MOSCOW: The Kremlin said Friday that Western powers were not ready to form a coalition with Russia to fight the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, after talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French leader Francois Hollande.

"At the moment, unfortunately, our partners are not ready to work within the format of single coalition," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He added however that Russia remained open to cooperation "in any format our partners would be ready for."

After jihadists killed 130 people in Paris this month in attacks claimed by IS, Hollande travelled to Moscow on Thursday, hoping to bolster global efforts to crush IS.

Read: At least 128 dead in Paris terror attacks, IS claims responsibility

Putin had urged global powers to band together in the fight against jihadists in September during an address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), just before Russia launched its own bombing campaign in Syria.

Separately, a United States (US)-led coalition that includes France had already been staging air strikes against IS targets in Syria for over a year.

Putin and Hollande agreed Thursday to coordinate strikes and share intelligence in what was the most concrete sign of progress from the French leader's diplomatic marathon that has also included talks with the leaders of the US, Germany, Britain and Italy.

But the idea of a single anti-IS coalition involving Western powers and Russia did not get off the ground as US President Barack Obama is said to have given a cool response to Hollande's proposal.

The downing of a Russian warplane by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) member Turkey in Syria has also cast a shadow on the diplomatic efforts to step up the fight against the jihadists.

While Turkey said Friday it wanted to calm tensions with Russia and local media said Ankara "temporarily" suspended air strikes against IS targets in Syria, the Kremlin said Russia would press ahead with its bombing campaign in the war-torn country.

"We proceed from the fact that the Russian air force is continuing an operation to support an offensive by the Syrian armed forces against terrorist organisations," Peskov said.

He added that Putin discussed the crisis with his aides at a meeting of his national security council on Friday.

"The meeting discussed increased tensions over Syria against the background of Turkey's aggressive and unpredictable actions," Peskov told reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet a stab in the back administered by “the accomplices of terrorists,” saying the incident would have serious consequences for Moscow's relations with Ankara.

Read: Downing of Russian plane is a 'stab in the back' from Turkey, says Putin

Speaking in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi before a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah, Putin said the downed plane had been attacked inside Syria when it was one kilometre from the Turkish border and had come down four kilometres inside Syria.

That contradicted Turkey's assertion that the aircraft had been warned multiple times that it was straying into Turkish airspace before it was shot down.

"Our plane was shot down on Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile from an F-16. It fell on Syrian territory four kilometres from the Turkish border. It was flying at 6,000 metres, one kilometre from Turkish territory when it was attacked." said President Putin

He added that the Russian pilots and planes had in no way threatened Turkey, but had merely been carrying out their duty to fight the IS group's militants inside Syria.

The incident is one of the most serious clashes between a Nato member country and Russia to have taken place for half a century.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said his country does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the downing of the plane.

Turkey said the Russian warplane was shot down after it ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria.

Turkey changed its rules of engagement a few years ago after Syria shot down a Turkish plane. According to the new rules, Turkey said it would consider all “elements” approaching from Syria an enemy threat and would act accordingly.

Also read: Tensions soar as Turkey shoots down Russian plane

Russia sent an advanced missile system to Syria on Wednesday to protect its jets operating there and pledged its air force would keep flying missions near Turkish airspace, sounding a defiant note after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet.

Underscoring the message, Russian forces launched a heavy bombardment against insurgent-held areas in Latakia on Wednesday, near where the jet was downed, rebels and a monitoring group said.

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