Hollande and Obama vow unity against IS, appeal to Russia

Update: November, 25/2015 - 11:07

WASHINGTON — France and the United States have pledged 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 on Tuesday 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 led with the US Air Force.

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.

"Hopefully, this is a moment in which all parties can step back and make a determination as to how their interests are best served," Obama 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.

Hollande was in Washington as part of a frantic week of shuttle diplomacy as he tries to rally global support for increased strikes against IS, which claimed the Paris attacks.

Acting on a French resolution, the UN Security Council last week authorized "all necessary measures" to fight IS.

The French leader will hold talks in Paris with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday and with Putin in Moscow on Thursday, before dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the French capital on Sunday. — AFP