Paris (AFP) – Sunday’s massive march in Paris against terrorism drew dozens of world leaders in a show of unity — except from the United States, which was represented by its ambassador.
US Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris Sunday to attend a meeting of interior and justice ministers discussing measures to combat jihadist attacks, was meant to have participated in the rally according to the White House on Saturday, but did not do so, the US embassy in Paris confirmed.
The embassy did not say why Holder did not attend the march. It said the United States was represented in the huge rally by its ambassador to France, Jane Hartley.
Holder, who was protected while in France by a detail of FBI officers, said after the ministers’ meeting that US President Barack Obama wanted to hold a summit of allied leaders in Washington on February 18 to “discuss ways in which we can counteract this violent extremism that exists around the world”.
He also expressed sympathy with France for the three days of carnage it suffered at the hands of three Islamist gunmen, saying: “On this day, we are all French citizens. I am a citizen of France, and we stand in solidarity with the French people.”
Other interior and justice ministers at the meeting, from 11 EU countries, went on to attend the Paris march.
Some observers questioned why the US presence was outranked by so many other countries in the demonstration, which also championed the principle of freedom of expression after Wednesday’s massacre in Paris at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
A CNN presenter, Jake Tapper, noted that Jordan, a close Muslim ally of the US, was represented by its king.
“I don’t mean this as a criticism of the Obama administration, but as an American, I do wish that we were better represented in this beautiful procession of world leaders,” Tapper was quoted as saying.
Obama himself had said in Washington on Friday, after French commandos killed the three Islamists and freed the hostages they had been holding: “I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow.”