WASHINGTON, D.C.: France and the United States pledged Tuesday to step up the fight against the Islamic State group, urging Russia to throw its weight behind global efforts to resolve the four-year Syrian conflict.
President Francois Hollande met his US counterpart Barack Obama at the White House as Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane dealt a severe blow to efforts to coordinate the fight against IS.
Speaking 11 days after jihadists killed 130 people in the French capital, Hollande urged an “implacable” joint response to crush the group in Syria and Iraq.
At a joint press conference, Obama pledged America’s full solidarity in the wake of the November 13 carnage, switching into Hollande’s language to tell him, “We are all French.”
Washington and Paris have both stepped up their fight against IS in Syria, with France launching its first strikes from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean and the US calling for more international cooperation against the jihadists.
While announcing no specific new action, Hollande said he and Obama agreed to “scale up our strikes both in Syria and in Iraq to broaden our scope to strengthen our intelligence sharing regarding the targets.”
Both leaders said they would boost support for forces battling IS on the ground — while continuing to rule out any ground campaign.
“France will not intervene militarily on the ground,” Hollande said.
Illustrating the leaders’ message on tighter cooperation, France said its warplanes had hit an IS command center near its key western Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, in a strike conducted with the US Air Force.
Influence on Assad
The talks in Washington came as Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane at the Syrian border threatened to dramatically fan tensions in the volatile region.
Obama and Hollande joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in warning against any escalation.
In a call, Obama and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan “agreed on the importance of de-escalating the situation and pursuing arrangements to ensure that such incidents do not happen again,” the White House said.
The US military has backed up Turkey’s claim that Turkish pilots warned the Russian jet 10 times — but failed to get a response — before shooting it down.
Obama said NATO ally Turkey had a right to defend its airspace — but also appealed to Russia to engage at the side of the 65 countries battling IS in Syria.
“Given Russia’s military capabilities and the influence they have on the Assad regime, them cooperating would be enormously helpful in bringing about resolution of the civil war in Syria,” Obama said.