White House admits US absence at Paris unity rally was a mistake
The White House has admitted that the US made a mistake after not sending “someone with a higher profile” to Sunday’s Paris unity rally.
It comes after US media criticized President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for not attending the demonstration.
The rally, which followed three terror attacks in Paris, was attended by an estimated 1.6 million people and some 40 world leaders.
The US ambassador to France was the highest ranking US official attending.
Speaking on January 12, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama wished he could have attended, but the “onerous and significant” security preparations for a presidential visit required more than the 36-hour advance notice the White House received.
Josh Earnest added, however: “It’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile.”
Seventeen people died in attacks in Paris last week at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, on a police officer, and at HyperCacher supermarket.
John Kerry told reporters in India he would visit France to reaffirm US solidarity with the country, which he called America’s oldest ally.
A fluent French speaker, John Kerry has visited France 17 times since becoming secretary of state.
Among those linking arms in a symbolic gesture at the Paris march were UK PM David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
US Attorney General Eric Holder, in Paris for an anti-terror summit, did not attend the march because he was giving media interviews.
John Kerry was visiting India, for an international development trip, and Pakistan to meet PM Nawaz Sharif.
“I would have personally very much wanted to have been there,” John Kerry said, but “it is important to keep these kinds of commitments”.
John Kerry said US officials, including himself and President Barack Obama, had been “deeply engaged” with French authorities since the first attack and had offered intelligence assistance.
“I want to emphasize that the relationship with France is not about one day or one particular moment,” John Kerry said.
“It is an ongoing long-time relationship that is deeply, deeply based in the shared values, and particularly the commitment that we share to freedom of expression.”
John Kerry is expected to arrive in Paris later this week.
Meanwhile, the White House announced there would be an international summit in Washington in February on countering violent extremism.
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