Obama Promises President Hollande US Stands in 'Total Solidarity' With France

President Obama hosts French President Francois Hollande in Washington today.

November 24, 2015, 2:08 PM

— -- President Obama and French President Francois Hollande recommitted their nations to the global fight against ISIS, but both also set clear limits on how far their military engagement would go.

Obama told Hollande the United States stands united in "total solidarity" with France against the terrorist organization, which he called "a scourge that threatens all of us."

But beyond some changes on the margins of the United States' participation in the fight against ISIS extremists, the president did not announce any major shifts in strategy in light of the deadly terrorist attack in Paris.

Rather, he said the United States would "step up" its coordination with France by providing additional airlift and intelligence to its European partner, and he called for the European Union to implement an agreement that would require airlines to share passenger information.

His statements, at the beginning of a press conference with Hollande in the East Room of the White House, came after the two leaders met privately in the Oval Office for the first time since the Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris that left 130 people dead.

Hollande also said France would increase its airstrikes targeting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but explicitly ruled out ground troops, saying the on-foot battle was for local fighters.

The two leaders also urged restraint from Russia, on the same day that Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that it claimed was violating its airspace. Turkey had also voiced concerns that Moscow had been targeting ethnic minorities who are fighting alongside Syrian rebel groups against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"This points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border and they are going after moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a large range of countries," Obama said.

"We must prevent an escalation," added Hollande, who is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday to discuss ramping up their cooperation, although the Turkey incident undoubtedly complicates that prospect.

The White House had been keeping expectations for the Obama-Hollande meeting low well before it happened.

“I don't want to get ahead of the meeting, but I also wouldn't downplay the significance of additional expressions of solidarity and support," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.

Obama today praised Hollande for committing to taking in 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years.

"As Francois said, our humanitarian duty to help desperate refugees and our duty to security, those duties go hand in hand," he said, before referencing the words emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France to the United States.

"'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,'" Obama recited. "That's the spirit that makes us Americans. That's the spirit that binds us to France."

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