Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama, Hollande Pledge Solidarity against Islamic State

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama, Hollande Pledge Solidarity against Islamic State

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * In a show of Western solidarity, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande vowed Tuesday to escalate airstrikes against the Islamic State and bolster intelligence sharing following the deadly attacks in Paris. They called on Russia to join the international efforts, but only if Moscow ends its support for Syria's embattled president.

"Russia is the outlier," Obama said at a joint White House news conference with Hollande.

Tuesday's meeting came hours after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border.

Obama said Russian cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State would be "enormously helpful." But he insisted a partnership was impossible as long as Russia stands by Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is blamed by the U.S. for plunging his country into chaos and creating the vacuum that allowed the Islamic State to strengthen.

"We hope that they refocus their attention on what is the most substantial threat, and that they serve as a constructive partner," Obama said of Russia.

Hollande concurred, saying France wants to work alongside Russia, but only if President Vladimir Putin "fully commits" to supporting a political transition in Syria.

Hollande's alignment with Obama was notable, given that he was expected to urge the U.S. president to put aside some of his differences with Russia to build a new coalition to fight the extremists. But Hollande's mission quickly became entangled with the fallout from the downed Russian military plane.

Obama cautioned that information about the incident was still emerging. But he said that Turkey had a "right to defend its territory and its airspace."

Even before the incident between Turkey and Russia, Hollande faced a tough challenge in getting Obama to agree to a partnership with Moscow. The White House is deeply skeptical of Putin's motivations, given his longstanding support for Assad, and has accused Putin of bombing rebels fighting the Syrian leader instead of targeting the Islamic State. …

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