White House looks to tamp down tensions with Russia over Syria

White House looks to tamp down tensions with Russia over Syria
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The White House responded Monday to Moscow’s threat to treat planes in the U.S.-led coalition in Syria as targets, saying the escalating rhetoric over Syria is unhelpful and that the U.S. preserves the right to defend itself.

“The escalation of hostility among all of the factions operating there doesn’t help anybody,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. “So making sure people understand we want to deescalate the situation there … and understand we’ll always preserve the right of self-defense.”

Tensions are escalating between the U.S. and Russia over Syria. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the fight against both ISIS and Syrian rebel groups, some of which are backed by the U.S.

Russia is demanding an explanation for why the U.S. shot down a Syrian jet over the weekend and said it will track all U.S. air traffic over Syria beginning Monday.

“We’re going to do what we can to protect our interests, and this is something we’ll continue to keep the lines of communication open,” Spicer said. “ISIS represents a threat to all nations so we’ve got to do what we can to work with partners and we’ll continue to keep an open line of communication with the Russians.”