FW: WH Foreign Press Pool Report /a joint press conference/Obama-Hollande

From: emel bayrak [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 1:42 PM
To: Gabriel, Brian A. Jr. EOP/WHO ; Velz, Peter T. EOP/WHO ; Barnes, Desiree N. EOP/WHO
Subject: WH Foreign Press Pool Report /a joint press conference/Obama-Hollande

(Please check the official transcript)

President Obama and President Francois Hollande entered the room at 12:00 pm

President Obama started his remarks saying that as Americans, we stand by our friends in good times and in bad no matter what.

Express our deepest condolences to you and all of the people of France for the heinous attacks that took place in Paris.

We're here today to declare US and France stand united in total solidarity to deliver justice to these terrorists and those who sent them, and defend our nations.

This barbaric terrorist group and its murderous ideology pose a serious threat to all of us. It cannot be tolerated, it must be destroyed, and we must do it together.

Terrorists focused their violence on the spirit of France and by extension on all liberal democracies. This was an attack on our free and open societies where people come together to sing and compete. This was an attack on the very idea that the people of different races and backgrounds can live together in peace. It was an attack against the world itself.

Today we reviewed the coalition progress: more than 8,000 airstrikes have pushed ISIL back in territory in both Iraq and Syria. Today we agreed our nations must do more together. US assistance has supported recent French strikes in Syria, and we are going to keep stepping up that coordination.

We'll do even more to prevent attacks at home, will quickly share intelligence with France, and there is recognition among European nations that they need to do more to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.

Agreed that Russia's strikes against moderate opposition only bolster Assad regime whose brutality has fueled rise of ISIL. Russia could be constructive if they shifted to targeting ISIL. Active Russian support for ceasefire and political transition away from Assad.

One of our greatest weapons against ISIL is the strength and resilience of our people. What happened in Paris is truly horrific. I understand that people worry that something similar could happen here. We will continue to do everything in our power to defend our nation. Since 9/11 we have taken extraordinary measures to strengthen homeland security.

As Americans we all have a role to play in how we respond to threats. Groups like ISIL cannot defeat us on the battlefield, so they try to terrorize us at home against innocent people. As we are vigilant, we cannot succumb to fear nor can we allow fear to divide us. That's how terrorists win. We cannot give them the victory of changing how we go about our lives. Good news is Americans are resilient. We mourned the lives lost at Ft. Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, but we did not waver. Our communities have come together, we've gone to ball games, concerts, shopping, and military recruitment offices. Americans will not be terrorized.

Another part of being vigilant and defeating terrorists like ISIL is upholding the rights and freedoms that define our two great republics. That includes freedom of religion. There have been moments in the past when we failed to uphold our ideals and it has been to our last regret. We must uphold our ideals now. We must show that America is strengthened by people of every faith and background.

Here in the US, refugees go through up to two years of screening. We're prepared to share these tools with France and our European partners. Our humanitarian duty to help desperate refugees and our duties to our security go hand in hand.

I want to salute the people of Paris how to stay strong in the face of terrorism. Next week I will join Hollande and world leaders in Paris for the global climate conference. What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better world for our children.

We've faced greater threats to our way of life before: fascism, communism, long Cold War. We have prevailed because our way of life is stronger, we stay united. We are relentless in the face of evil and draw on what is best in ourselves. It will be no different this time. We will win and groups like ISIL will lose. Standing with allies like France, we will continue to show the world the best of American leadership.

After POTUS, French President spoke strongly "We are facing a terror group with substantial resources. They are striving on smuggling of oil, drugs, human beings. Since the beginning of the year, they hit many countries. Together with Obama today we wanted to share our relentless determination to fight terrorism everywhere and anywhere. We also tell the world that we will not allow those who want to destroy what we've built to do it, to destroy what we've built over generations. We need a joint response, an implacable joint response. France and US stand together to bring that response. Militarily, it is about destroying Daesh no matter where they are, hunting down their leaders, networks, and taking back the land they control. We will scale up strikes, broaden their scope, and strengthen intelligence sharing of the targets. Priority is to take back key locations in the hands of Daesh in Syria. It is a matter of urgency to close the border between Turkey and Syria and prevent terrorists from crossing the border.

Diplomatically, working on credible transition in Syria along the Vienna process, commend work between Fabius and Kerry. Syrian crisis is directly relevant to Europe given the terrorist threat, but there are also millions of refugees fleeing. If we abandon them, we would betray who we are. At the same time, we must control the borders. Today people are risking their lives to flee. Turkey plays an important role, and it is together with them that we find solutions so that the refugees can stay close to their country of origin. And we need to make sure that the required controls and checks are implemented at the border.

I will tell Putin that France can work with Russia if it concentrates its military activity against ISIL and if it fully commits to the political solution in Syria. We want to gather all countries, all those willing to find and implement a diplomatic solution in Syria. We want to make sure this political solution eradicates terrorism.

Next week we will be hosting the climate conference. I certainly could not imagine that this conference would be taking place against such a background. At the same time, I think there cannot be e any better symbol or response but to hold the conference in Paris where the attacks took place.

Q. Reaction to Turkey shooting down Russian plane? How do you keep this from spiraling out of control? What does it mean for prospects of future military coordination with Russia?

President Obama: We are still getting the details of what happened. I expect to be in communications potentially directly with Erdogan over next several days. Turkey has a right to defend its territory and its airspace. I think it's very important right now for us to make sure that the Russians and Turks are talking to one another and take measures to discourage any kind of escalation. I do think that this points to a ongoing problem with the Russian operations in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border and going after moderate opposition supported by Turkey and other countries . If Russia is directing its energy towards Daesh, some of the potentials for mistakes are less likely to occur.

I also think this underscores the importance of us making sure we move this political track forward as quickly as possible. Our view from the start has been Russia is welcome to be part of this broad based coalition. The challenge has been Russia's focus on propping up Assad rather than focusing on ISIL. I had a conversation with Putin in Turkey and indicated to him that the time they make that strategic shift, focus on the Vienna process, refocus attention on ISIL, there is enormous capacity for us to cooperate. Until that happens, it's very difficult. If their priority is attacking the moderate opposition that might be future members of an inclusive Syrian government, Russia won't get the support of us or other coalition members.

President Hollande: Event that took place is a serious one and we can only regret it. Turkey is currently providing all of the information to NATO so that we can find out what really happened and whether Turkey's airspace indeed was entered into. We must prevent an escalation. That would be extremely damaging. Only purpose is to fight against terrorism and Daesh. What took places means we must find a solution to Syrian crisis because we can see the risks of escalation otherwise.

We'll ask Putin as I've done before that the strikes must be against Daesh and terrorism and those who precisely are threatening us and the Russians.

Q. Are you going to send special forces or ground forces to Syria? Can you tell us a specific date for Assad to go?

President Hollande: I will not provide you with a date because it must be as soon as possible. There is a new mindset now. The crisis has been ongoing for four years, probably more than 300,000 dead. This is not just relevant to the countries of the region that are hosting refugees but now also Europe. Those we believe we can wait some more, they now realize that we have an influx of refugees, the risk is everywhere with Daesh, we must therefore act.

We will intensify strikes, have more specific targets so that their means and resources are cut off, including command centers, training centers, and oil trucks. France will not intervene militarily on the ground. It is for the local forces to do so.

President Obama: We've taken thousands of strikes, squeezed supplies lines, empowered and armed local groups that are pushing against them including most recently in Sinjar, providing training and assistance to the Iraqi government as they prepare to retake places like Ramadi. We've seen some success, but the question is now how can we accelerate it. Even before the tragedy in Paris, I gathered my national security team and had put together a plan to accelerate and advance the pressure we can put on ISIL. We should not be under any illusions: Syria has broken down. It began to break down the moment Assad began killing indiscriminately his own people. It is going to be a difficult, long, methodical process to bring back together various factions within Syria to maintain Syrian state and institutions to create the kind of stability that allows people to come back in and rebuild their lives. The urgency that we've seen even before Paris from countries like Russia show they can't be there too long and win a military battle.

Q. Did Russian plane break Turkish airspace? Could Paris attack have been prevented with more counter terrorism measures employed earlier?

President Obama: We don't have all the information yet.

My top priority is to ensure this does not escalate. Hopefully this is a moment in which all countries can step back and make a determination in how their interests are best served. Flow of foreign fighters out of Russian areas into Syria poses an enormous long term threat to Russian territory. There is potential convergence of interests between the parties, but it requires them to make the strategic shift and recognition that existing structure cannot gain the legitimacy to stop the war.

Our counter terrorism professionals work tirelessly to disrupt plots and stop attacks. Were it not for their dedication, this would be a much more dangerous world. You have to be careful about speculating about what if and could have and would have in a situation like this. You had eight individuals with light weapons; that's a hard thing to track. We can do a better charge of coordinating between countries, and I've been talking to European partners for quite some time now for need for better intelligence sharing, passenger name records, working to ensure that when people enter into Europe that the information across various borders is shared on a timely basis. It won't be 100% foolproof but we can do better.

President Hollande: Daesh is an organization occupying territory, killing, and they want to install rules that dishonor humanity. This is what they are trying to do in other countries. We have to deal with the number of networks organized in a number of countries that are being use to lead terror attacks as was the case in Paris. We know that this dreadful plan was organized in a number of countries. If we want to tackle terrorism, we must act not only to destroy Daesh where they are in Syria and Iraq but also dismantle and destroy these networks. How can we proceed? Militarily by intensifying strikes, taking back these territories, ensuring territorial integrity of Iraq is restored.

Q. Does coordination mean the coalition cannot include Russia and US working together? Assad's departure is not prerequisite?

President Hollande: Resolution approved by security council allows us to say the entire world is committed to fighting against Daesh. We need one single goal: tackle terrorism and fight against them, and I believe we can have further coordination militarily. But we have to be clear when it comes to political solution. Like we've said, Assad cannot be the future of Syria. In Vienna, we are working with all of the countries on that transition where Assad plays no role. He has been the problem so he cannot be the solution.

President Obama: We've got a coalition of 65 countries who have been active in pushing back against ISIL. France has been a central part of that as have European, Arab countries, as far as Australia and southeast Asia are a part of it. Russia is a coalition of two: Iran and Russia supporting Assad. Given Russia's military capabilities and the influence they have on the Assad regime, them cooperating would be enormously helpful in bringing about resolution to the civil war and allow us all to refocus our attention on ISIL. But I think it's important to remember you've got a global coalition organized, Russia is the outlier. We hope they can serve as a constructive partner. If they do, it will make it easier for us to go after ISIL. The kinds of airstrikes they are carrying out in and of themselves are not sufficient. The work we do to bolster local fighting forces, cutting off of supply lines, financing, oil, reducing the flow of foreign fighters, the intelligence work that needs to be done, all of that is something we are doing now and that they can supplement, but it is a process that requires hard, methodical work. Won't happen because suddenly we take a few more airstrikes.

The Joint press conference ended at 1:00 pm

Background info:

First visit was on Feb 11, 2014. President Hollande visited the United States at the invitation of the President Obama marking the first State visit of a French President since 1966.

After the November 13 terrorist attack in Paris, President Obama spoke with French President Fancois Hollande Nov 19, before their meeting at the White House today.

French President will visit Moscow on Thursday, Nov 25 for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

President Obama still plans to attend the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

According to some French media reports, President Hollande’s approval ratings have been increased approx. 8 percent since the November 13 terrorist attack.  French people have a good opinion of Hollande on his handling of the recent terrorist attack in Paris. French media also reports that it is unclear whether Hollande’s improved ratings will have any impact on his Socialist Party’s chances in the France upcoming regional elections on Dec 6 and Dec 13.

French-American cooperation has been strengthened and is at the forefront of an effort to bring a swift halt to the bloodshed in Syria and to promote a political transition in this country. Also both countries are involved in talks on Iranian nuclear policy and the crisis in Ukraine. The cooperation of two countries extended to the military area on fight against terrorism in North Africa, and the Middle East. (Please see >http://ambafrance-us.org/spip.php?rubrique254<)

Emel Bayrak
The White House Correspondent for TRT-TURK

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