Putin tells Hollande 'ready for cooperation' in fight against IS

#SyriaWar

Anti-IS Moscow meeting comes as Erdogan tells media he may have acted differently if he had known jet was Russian

French President Francois Hollande (right) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last met at the Elysee Palace in October 2015 (AFP)
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Thursday 26 November 2015 19:32 UTC
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Russian President Vladimir Putin told French counterpart Francois Hollande on Thursday that Moscow is ready to cooperate in anti-terrorism efforts in Syria.

The statement was made at the start of crunch talks over forming a coalition against the Islamic State group, with Hollande traveling to Moscow earlier in the day. 

Recent attacks in Paris and the bombing of a a Russian passenger plane over Egypt "make us unite our efforts against the common evil," Putin said as the two met in the Kremlin, adding "we are ready for this cooperation". 

It is unclear what level of coopeartion will be involved with tensions particularly high between Russia and NATO following the downing of a Russian jet by the Turkish army earlier this week. NATO member Turkey insists the plane was in its airspace and did not respond to warning calls, although Russia disputes this. 

Turkey has since seemingly gone on the defensive with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that Turkey would have acted differently if it had known that the warplane was Russian.

"If we had known if it was a Russian plane maybe we would have warned it differently," Erdogan told France 24 television, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin had not answered his call after Tuesday's incident that has seriously damaged ties.

On Thursday, Moscow said that it has carried out "massive strikes" near to where its downed plane landed in Syria, destroying all "terrorists operating in the area and other mysterious groups". It also announced that it had deployed its advanced S-400 air defence system in Syria, with the weapons to be used to cover the area around its airbase in coastal Latakia.

While Russia has said that it is fighting terrorists and taking particular aim at the IS, it has also been widely criticised for targetting a string of other factions, including those with close links to Turkey and America, as well as displacing already vulnerable civilian populations.

Moscow is also a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while France has traditionally been one of his fiercest international critics and has repeatedly called on him to step down. 

Analysts have warned that French calls for a stronger and more united anti-IS alliance are unlikely to materialise. 

"Either it's a coalition dominated by the United States - and Russia will not accept being under the US banner," Bruno Tertrais, a military expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, told AFP. "Or there's a joint decision-making mechanism, which would give Russia an effective veto on Western operations, which would clearly be unacceptable."

Tertrais said there was some scope for joint operations against specific targets, and Russia has clear political motives for talking up an alliance.

"Russia will certainly maintain cooperation with France, which gives it a supporter inside the EU and NATO," said Sarah Lain, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, while also adding that cooperation would likely be limited to cautious intelligence-sharing.