Offering a single white rose and a silent prayer, President Obama paid his respects to the massacre victims at Paris’ Bataclan theater here Monday, moments after arriving in France to attend a major international climate summit.
Amid a heavy security presence in the heart of the French capital, Obama was joined by French President Francois Hollande and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, for the unannounced visit just after midnight.
The three walked to a makeshift memorial in front of the concert hall. Each placed a rose amid the flags, notes, flowers and candles at the location where dozens of people were slain in one of a series of coordinated attacks Nov. 13 that ultimately claimed 130 lives.
Obama stood silently for about a minute, his eyes closed, before offering a reverent nod and walking away with his arms around Hollande and Hidalgo.
With 150 world leaders set to attend the United Nations’ COP 21 summit here Monday, French authorities have been taking multiple dignitaries to the site. A senior French government advisor said preparations for Obama’s visit had been in the works for days.
Last week, Hollande visited the White House to discuss new military coordination in the fight against Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks. During their U.S. meeting, Obama noted that the terrorists had directed their violence not against the French government or military, but “on the very spirit of France and, by extension, on all liberal democracies.”
“This was an attack on our free and open societies,” he said. “This was an attack on the very idea that people of different races and religions and backgrounds can live together in peace.”
Paris has mobilized an unprecedented security presence for the summit, including the main conference venue of Le Bourget on the northern edge of the city. Hollande and other government ministers were adamant that the conference should go ahead despite the attacks, saying that any delay in talks that have been years in the making would be a surrender to terrorism.
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