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Merkel vows to help France in fight against 'IS' terrorism

French President Francois Hollande returned to Paris from a diplomatic tour driven by the November 13 attacks. He met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who pledged further assistance in the fight against terror.

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Germany sending more troops to Mali

Washington D.C. and

Barack Obama on Tuesday,

Paris for Merkel's visit on Wednesday, Moscow and Vladimir Putin on Thursday: Francois Hollande is on tour in an effort to forge a coalition to fight so-called "Islamic State" (IS) fighters.

He and Merkel appeared on Wednesday evening in the Place de la Republique, the square which has become the city's focal point for tributes after the Paris attacks of November 13. Merkel laid flowers at a memorial site in the central plaza.

At a shared press conference shortly thereafter, Merkel promised Hollande she would act "swiftly" in the fight against terrorism and promised her

complete solidarity.

"We have a shared enemy: terrorism. The Islamic State will not be convinced with words. It has to be defeated militarily," Germany's chancellor said.

Frankreich Angela Merkel & Francois Hollande in Paris

Perhaps France's closest ally, Germany is limited in its military options abroad

Merkel stressed that cutting off revenue flows to IS should be the cornerstone of a joint strategy while Hollande said he hoped that Germany could "engage more" in Iraq and Syria. German media reported that Hollande was hoping for assistance from the German air force, namely with reconnaissance flights.

Despite speculation, the government in Berlin has so far sought to offer military assistance in peacekeeping missions elsewhere in the world - rather than pitting its broadly pacifist constitution against the airstrikes on IS territory.

Ahead of the meeting between the two leaders and following a hotel siege in Bamako, Mali, earlier in the week, which saw 20 people killed, Germany pledged to send 650 soldiers to Mali to relieve French troops combating militant Islamists there. The French president welcomed this move.

Push for help with Russia

Hollande was also expected to turn to Merkel to try to ease tensions between Russia and Turkey after the downing of a Russian warplane at the Turkish-Syrian border on November 24. The falling-out between the two countries could considerably hinder the formation of a successful anti-IS alliance.

"We must all work to make sure that the situation de-escalates," Hollande said during the joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile threw his weight behind Hollande's initial proposal to close off the border between Syria and Turkey to prevent the flow of potential jihadi fighters across the border. Hollande is due to travel to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 26, hoping to achieve closer cooperation between the French and the Russian military efforts over IS-held territory.

ss/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)

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