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Dozens of Foreign Leaders Join Millions In Paris March, Where Was Obama?

January 12, 2015  |  Posted by: Giovanni DePhillips
Dozens of Foreign Leaders Join Millions In Paris March, Where Was Obama?

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(Reuters) – World leaders including Muslim and Jewish statesmen linked arms to lead more than a million French citizens through Paris in an unprecedented march to pay tribute to victims of Islamist militant attacks.

Commentators said the last time crowds of this size filled the streets of the capital was at the Liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany in 1944.

President Francois Hollande and leaders from Germany, Italy, Turkey, Britain as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories moved off from the central Place de la Republique ahead of a sea of French and other flags.

Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began on Wednesday with a shooting attack on the political weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were among 44 foreign leaders marching with Hollande.

“The most important is the Europe of values, of culture, of ideals and that is the reason we are here,” Renzi said.

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu – who earlier in the day encouraged French Jews to emigrate to Israel – and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were also present and walked just a few steps from one another.

“In the same way that the civilized world stood today with France against terror, so it must stand with Israel against terror,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony in a Paris synagogue.

Noticebly absent was President Obama or any high ranking official from his administration.

The absence of American high ranking officials has drawn criticism from American media outlets as well as many present at the march.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended against criticism that ┬áthe Obama administration didn’t have a high level official attend a unity march in Paris and said he will head to France on Thursday.

Kerry labeled the criticism “quibbling” when asked about the absence at the anti-terrorism rally Sunday. At least 3.7 million people attended the event — including 40 world leaders — in a show of solidarity against the terror attacks in France over the past week.

“The U.S. has been deeply engaged with the people of France since this incident occurred,” Kerry told reporters, adding that the United States has offered intelligence and law enforcement help.

“This is sort of quibbling a little bit in the sense that our assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched.”

Kerry made his comments from India, where he was attending an entrepreneurship summit with new Prime Minister Narendra Modi — with whom the United States is hoping to develop much closer trade ties.

“I’ve been here in India for a prior planned event, would’ve personally very much wanted to have been there (in France) but couldn’t do so because of the commitment that I had here,” Kerry said. “But that is why I am going there on the way home, to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there.”

Kerry expects to leave on Thursday and arrive in France on Friday.

Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris attending a security summit on combating terrorism. He recorded interviews that appeared on several U.S. news outlets Sunday, but was not spotted at the unity march.

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