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Kerry: US, France Will Persevere Against Terrorism


France's President Francois Hollande, left, welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the Elysee Palace in Paris, Jan. 16, 2015.

The United States and France will persevere together against terrorism, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday in Paris during a series of solemn tributes honoring victims of last week’s attacks and showing solidarity with America’s "oldest ally."

"I think you know that you have the full and heartfelt condolences of the American people and I know you know that we share the pain and the horror of everything that you went through,'' he told French President Francois Hollande in a meeting at the presidential palace. "Our hearts are with you."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador in France Jane Hartley, lays a wreath at a memorial for the Charlie Hebdo victims in Paris, Jan. 16, 2015. (Photo: P. Dockins / VOA)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador in France Jane Hartley, lays a wreath at a memorial for the Charlie Hebdo victims in Paris, Jan. 16, 2015. (Photo: P. Dockins / VOA)

The United States’ top diplomat embraced the president and later laid wreaths at the two sites of the terrorist shootings in and near the capital. The attacks, which began January 7 at the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, claimed 17 victims over three days.

Kerry also spoke at a ceremony at Hotel de Ville, Paris’ city hall. In a speech delivered partly in English and partly in French, he called the shootings "cowardly and despicable" and praised France’s law enforcement community. He said the events will renew American and French dedication to freedom, truth and love – and not to hate.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo spoke, too, saying France never would accept attacks on the French republic’s values. She said an attack on Paris was particularly significant because the values on which the French nation is based were laid out in the capital city. She also said the mayors of several American cities, including New York and Philadelphia, telephoned her immediately after the attacks to offer their support. Hidalgo said she was grateful for the U.S. support as well as support from Kerry.

“A friend who has just sent a message of affection, support and solidarity and I am deeply grateful to him," she said.

Also Friday, Hollande told a group of foreign ambassadors in Paris that the world must form a "firm" and "collective" response to terrorism. He called last week’s attacks "an insult to Islam" and repeated a statement he made earlier in the week that Muslims are the main victims of terrorism.

Heartfelt condolences

Kerry met earlier Friday with his French counterpart, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, as he began a series of meetings with French officials.

Kerry told Fabius that he hadn't come to Sunday's massive anti-terrorism march in Paris because of travel obligations in India and Bulgaria. The Obama administration has admitted it made a mistake by not sending a high-level representative. French officials say the march, which attracted other world leaders, was the largest street demonstration in the country's history.

Kerry, Hollande and Fabius visited the shooting sites, where Kerry laid wreaths on behalf of the United States.

Informal shrines have developed near the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where two gunmen killed 12 people a week ago Wednesday, and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket, where a gunman two days later killed four hostages before he was slain in a police raid.

More arrests

In another development Friday, police in Paris say they have detained at least 10 people suspected of having ties to the shooters.

Authorities are on high alert for further attacks. The Associated Press reported the Gare de l'Est train station in Paris has been closed and evacuated because of a bomb threat, although officials called the move a "precaution." No other details were released.

The Yemeni-based terror group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

VOA's Pamela Dockins contributed to this report from Paris. Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters.