Dozens of world leaders participated in a massive rally, which also included thousands of French citizens, in Paris on Sunday to pay tribute to victims of vicious attacks by Islamist militants, who killed 17 people in the French capital over three days last week.
One of the more remarkable scenes at the rally was when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly had his closest encounter with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in years. In the row of world leaders that led the rally, the two leaders were separated by only four foreign dignitaries -- Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk, according to reports.
“In the same way that the civilized world stood today with France against terror, so it must stand with Israel against terror,” Reuters quoted Netanyahu as saying at a ceremony in a Paris synagogue. The Israeli leader also reportedly said earlier that it is the radical, extremist version of Islam -- not the religion itself -- that should be blamed for spreading terror around the world.
I marched in one row with world leaders in order to unite against terrorism. Any terrorism must be fought to the end pic.twitter.com/X5oFg5r3cB
— בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) January 11, 2015
Netanyahu and Abbas were not the only foes to set aside their differences to stand together against extremism. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose countries are at odds over a violent conflict in eastern Ukraine, also linked arms to protest against terrorism.
All united in Paris with France for our European values #NousSommesCharlie
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) January 11, 2015
“We in Britain face a very similar threat, a threat of fanatical extremism,” Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly said, before leaving for the Paris rally. “It's a threat that has been with us for many years and I believe will be with us for many more years to come.”
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 11, 2015
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders, a France-based nonprofit that promotes freedom of the press, said it was “outraged” by the presence of some foreign leaders at the Paris rally, accusing them of cracking down on freedom of expression in their own countries. The group specifically criticized Egypt, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates for allegedly persecuting journalists and bloggers, Agence France-Presse reported.
“It would be unacceptable if representatives of countries that silence journalists were to take advantage of the current outpouring of emotion to try to improve their international image and then continue their repressive policies when they return home. We must not let predators of press freedom spit on the graves of Charlie Hebdo,” Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement.