Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday traveled to scenes of the recent attacks in Paris, almost a week after President Barack Obama neglected to visit the country that was rocked by terror resulting in the deaths of 17 people.
Kerry told French President François Hollande that Americans watched with awe the unity between the government and its citizens in the wake of the recent attacks.
“We share the pain and the horror of everything you went through,” he said. “Once again, France’s commitment to freedom and passion of ideas has made an important statement to the world.”
Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius laid a wreath outside of Hyper Cacher, the kosher supermarket where a gunman killed four people last Friday after seizing the store as shoppers prepared for the Sabbath. Police later killed the alleged shooter, 32-year-old Amedy Coulibaly, in a raid.
The two diplomats then walked to a makeshift memorial wall adorned with letters and drawings outside of the Charlie Hebdo offices, the French satirical newspaper where brothers Chérif and Säid Kouachi allegedly stormed and killed 12 people last Wednesday. Two days later, officials killed the Kouachi brothers following a standoff at a printing shop north of the country’s capital.
Earlier this week, the White House failed to address Obama’s whereabouts last Sunday, when more than 40 world leaders gathered with 3.5 million citizens at solidarity rallies, which were the largest in French history.
Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during a briefing on Monday that he had not spoken to Obama about “what he did” on Sunday. Earnest, who was pummeled by the media on the administration’s lack of representation in France, said U.S. officials were absent from the scene because of security concerns and the reality that the rallies were scheduled in less than 36 hours. The White House, he added, didn’t want Obama’s presence to disrupt the gatherings.
Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States, on Monday told msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell: “From the French side, there is absolutely no hard feelings.”
“I just really wanted to come back here and share a hug with all of Paris and all of France,” Kerry said on Friday alongside Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and American singer James Taylor at Hotel de Ville. “I wanted to express to you personally the sheer horror and revulsion that all Americans felt for the cowardly and despicable act — the assault on innocent lives and on fundamental values.” His speech was accompanied by Taylor’s playing of, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron gave an address at the White House on Friday afternoon about their vow to defeat growing terror threats. Earlier this week, they jointly penned an opinion piece in the London Times to declare their commitment to safeguarding their two countries.