The U.S. and French leaders vowed new cooperation to defeat Islamic State militants in the wake of the deadly jihadist attacks on Paris.
“We must do even more together,” President Barack Obama told French President Francois Hollande after the two leaders met Tuesday at the White House.
The American leader called the Islamic State group “a scourge that threatens all of us.” But Obama said, “We will not succumb to fear. Make no mistake, we will win and groups like ISIL will lose.”
Hollande, who has launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria since the November 13 Paris attacks, said, “We will not give in” and called for “an implacable joint response” with the U.S.
Going on the offensive
Hollande called for more intense attacks on Islamic State positions, “hunting down” the terrorist group’s leaders and taking back lands the insurgents have captured in Iraq and Syria.
Obama pledged that “Americans will not be terrorized.” He called on his countrymen, though, to uphold the U.S. ideals of freedom of religion and equality before the law in the midst of a contentious debate in the country over whether to allow Syrian refugees to enter the U.S.
The president has been criticized by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates looking to succeed him when he leaves office in January 2017 for his plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. over the next year.
He noted France is set to permit 30,000 Syrians to enter its borders, and he reiterated that his refugee plans calls for intensive screening before anyone can move to the United States.
Hollande met with Obama after hosting British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday in Paris, and he will hold separate talks later this week with the leaders of Russia, China, Germany and Italy as he tries to build a coalition to fight the Islamic State group.
Obama said he and Hollande agreed Russia can play an increased role in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria if Moscow moves more toward attacking them rather than launching strikes against rebel groups fighting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In recent days, Russia has launched strikes against the Islamic State’s self-described capital of Raqqa in northern Syria, after concluding Islamic State took down a Russian passenger jet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last month, killing all 224 people aboard.
Cameron offered France new assistance for its airstrikes against Islamic State insurgents in Syria and said he would ask the British parliament later in the week for approval to join the fight against the jihadists.
He told Hollande that French jet fighters could use a British airbase in Cyprus to launch their attacks on Islamic State targets and also offered air-to-air refueling services.
“I firmly support the action that President Hollande has taken to strike ISIL in Syria and it is my firm conviction that Britain should do so, too,” Cameron said, using an acronym for Islamic State. Britain is already bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq.
France is intensifying its attacks on IS targets in Syria in the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks that killed at least 130 people and wounded more than 300 others. Paris moved its sole aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, into position in the Mediterranean on Monday, and could use the Cyprus base as an alternate launch site.
France sponsored a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last week that urges all able countries to work to “prevent and suppress terrorist acts” by Islamic State and other groups, and to “eradicate the safe haven” they have carved out in eastern Syria and northern and western sections of Iraq.
The measure, which condemns Islamic State attacks this year in France, Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, says the militants represent a “global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security.”