US President Barack Obama held a closed-door meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, urging him to de-escalate tensions with Turkey after it downed a Russian warplane.
On November 24, NATO member Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer jet, claiming the aircraft had repeatedly violated its air space.
One of the Russian pilots was killed by militants after parachuting from the burning jet in Syria, while the second was saved by Syrian forces. One Russian soldier lost his life during the rescue operation.
Putin said the aircraft had been attacked when it was 1 kilometer inside Syria. He warned of "serious consequences" and called it a “stab in the back” administered by "the accomplices of terrorists."
In the meeting held on the sidelines of a climate summit at Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris, Obama called for an easing of tensions between Russia and Turkey, a White House official said.
"President Obama expressed his regret for the recent loss of a Russian pilot and crew member and reiterated the United States' support for de-escalation between Russia and Turkey," the unnamed White House official said.
Obama and Putin reportedly also discussed ways to find a political solution to the years-old Syrian crisis and implement a ceasefire there.
Russia has been conducting airstrikes on Daesh (ISIL) positions at the request of the Syrian government since September 30 in Syria, where foreign-backed militants have been wreaking havoc for more than four years.
Obama urged Putin to focus Russia's air campaign in Syria against Daesh terrorists and not target Western-backed militants, according to the White House official.
"President Obama reiterated his belief that it will be necessary for Bashar al-Assad to leave power as a part of the transition and stressed the imperative of focusing military efforts against ISIL, as our international coalition is doing, rather than targeting moderate opposition," the official said.
The United States and its regional allies, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have been backing militants fighting against the Syrian government.
US can roll back Russia sanctions
Elsewhere in his remarks, Obama indicated that the United States could remove sanctions against Russia if Moscow fully implemented the Minsk peace accord signed in February over the Ukraine crisis.
Relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War in 1991, largely due to the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s air campaign in Syria.
The US and its allies accuse Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces. Moscow has long denied involvement in Ukraine's crisis.
Moscow says Washington is responsible for the escalating tension in Ukraine through sending arms in support of the Ukrainian army.
The Russian government confirmed on Monday that Putin and Obama held a meeting for half an hour near Paris, but did not provide more details.