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Obama, Hollande pledge solidarity against ISIS

Barack Obama

Washington: Pledging solidarity after the Paris attacks, President Barack Obama promised today to work with France and other allies to intensify the US-led campaign against the Islamic State, saying America would not be cowed by the scourge of terrorism.

To this point, Obama said, Russia is an “outlier” in the fight.

“We cannot succumb to fear,” Obama said, standing alongside French President Francois Hollande after they met at the White House to discuss the anti-ISIS mission.

“Make no mistake, we will win, and groups like ISIL will lose.”

Hollande’s trip to Washington was part of a diplomatic push to get the US and other nations to bolster efforts to destroy the militant group that has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

Hollande emerged from his meeting with Obama saying that France and the United States had agreed to step up a “joint response,” including new efforts to target terrorists’ financial networks, take back IS-controlled territory, scale up efforts in Syria and Iraq and increase intelligence sharing.

The US and France “share the determination to fight terrorism anywhere,” Hollande said, through a translator.

The French president had planned to urge Obama to work with Russia to build a new coalition to fight the extremists. But Hollande’s mission quickly became entangled with the fallout from a Russian military plane downed by Turkey, an incident with echoes of the Cold War.

The shootdown underscored what some see as a need for better coordination among the sprawling cast of interests engaged on the battlefields and in the skies above Iraq and Syria. At the same time, conflicting accounts and rising tensions stood to make any closer contact between interests more difficult.

US forces were not involved in the air incident, according to an American military official, who was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Obama cautioned that information about the incident was still emerging and he discouraged escalation. He added that Turkey had a “right to defend its territory and its airspace.”

The president said the shootdown underscored an “ongoing problem” with Russia’s military operations in Syria, where the Russians have been targeting groups near the Turkish border. The incident also shows a need to move forward quickly on a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Syria, he said.

Even before the incident between Turkey and Russia, Hollande faced a tough challenge in getting Obama to agree to a partnership with Moscow.

The US is deeply skeptical of President Vladimir Putin’s motivations, given his longstanding support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

That skepticism was clear today as both Obama and Hollande told reporters they would welcome Russia’s involvement in the fight, if Moscow were to concentrate its military action on IS.