President says military will respond with full force to any further provocations following shooting down of warplane by Turkey

Vladimir Putin has vowed Russias military will immediately destroy any target threatening them in Syria, representing a strong warning to Turkey following its shooting down of a Russian warplane at the Syrian border.

Speaking at a meeting with senior commanders in Moscow, Putin said the military should respond with full force to any further provocations, adding that additional aircraft and air defence weapons have been sent to the Russian base near Latakia.

I order you to act in the most severe style, the Russian president said. Any targets threatening the Russian groups of forces-out or our land infrastructure should be immediately destroyed.

In continuing violence, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a triple suicide truck bombing that killed 50 to 60 Kurds in Tell Tamer in the Hasaka area of northern Syria, while the UN said it was sending its senior relief officer, Stephen OBrien, to Damascus to examine the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

The downing of the Russian bomber by a Turkish fighter jet on 24 November, the first time a Nato member shot down a Russian plane in more than half a century, has badly strained closer relations between Moscow and Ankara.

Turkey said it downed the plane after it infringed its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings. Russia has insisted the plane remained in Syrian airspace. Putin denounced the Turkish action as a treacherous stab in the back.

Putin said Russian military action in Syria was essential to protect Russia from radicals based there, adding that fending off that menace is the main goal of the air campaign he launched on 30 September. The campaign took advantage of western disarray and galvanised efforts to end the four-and-a-half-year war.

Vladimir Putin built his comments during a meeting with senior commandants in Moscow. Photograph: Alexei Druzhinin/ ITAR-TASS Photo/ Corbis

Putin said Russian action supporting the Syrian army had helped change the situation on the ground. He said Russia was also helping air cover to some units of the opposition Free Syrian Army, which were fighting terrorists in Syria.

Western countries say Russian air attack have targeted rebels opposing President Bashar al-Assad far more than Isis, reinforcing the impression that Moscows main goal is to bolster its long-standing ally in Damascus.

The US and Britain have meanwhile welcomed agreement by Syrian opposition groups to hold talks with Assad in the new year. But the Syrians are still insisting he stands down at once in the face of strong resistance from Russia and Iran, the presidents closest allies.

Three days of talks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, created a statement by 116 representatives of both political and armed factions backing negotiations. That keeps diplomacy on track along with military operations against Isis, in line with the UN-backed strategy laid down in Vienna last month.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, welcomed the Riyadh agreement by what he called an extremely diverse group of Syrians who created a negotiating body to represent them. The last the discussions between the Syrian government and opposition groups were in Geneva in January 2014 and got nowhere. Kerry acknowledged, however, that there were still some kinks to be ironed out.

The opposition reiterated the demand that Assad step down in the early stages of a transition process. It also committed to preserving Syrian state institutions. By contrast, the US, UK and other western countries have signalled that Assad could remain in power for an unspecified period during the transition.

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Ahrar al-Sham, one of the biggest armed Islamist groups, which is backed by Turkey, walked out before the Riyadh meeting aimed, though it did sign the statement. It objected to the role given to the Damascus-based group, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, which is tolerated by Assad.

The talks excluded Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida and an important fighting force, as well as representatives of Syrian Kurdish groups.

Opposition groups such as the mainstream Syrian National Coalition are under pressure from armed rebels on the ground, who often reject exiled politicians as out of touch or too influenced by their western or Arab Gulf sponsors.

Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, called the Riyadh agreement an important step ahead of new international talks on Syria in New York next week, following up on what diplomats call the Vienna process. The Syrian negotiations are due to be held in the first half of January.

AP contributed to this report

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