Sarkozy begins official US visit

French president’s trip to Washington is seen as showing off close Franco-US ties.

Sarkozy and Bush are expected to stick to issues the two agree on [AFP]
Sarkozy and Bush are expected to stick to issues the two agree on [AFP]
Sarkozy is scheduled to address a joint session of the US congress.
First vacation
The US was one of Sarkozy’s first ports of call after winning the presidency in May, visiting the Bush family home in the northeastern US state of Maine.
Sarkozy’s spokesman says Iran’s nuclear programme will top the agenda.
France and the US are leading the campaign at the UN Security Council for a third round of sanctions to be put on Mahmoud Ahmadinjad’s government, which they accuse of developing nuclear weapons.
The leaders are also expected to discuss their joint support of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia – a move that has drawn criticism from Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, who supports Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo.
‘Meeting of minds’
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Charles Kupchan, US-European relations expert, said “there is an opportunity to put US-French relations on a footing that they haven’t been on since [Charles] De Gaulle took office decades ago”.
He said “not just on Kosovo and Iraq, but also Afghanistan, Lebanon, Darfur, will Sarkozy be able to deliver things that Bush needs – more troops, more money, more diplomacy.”
Kupchan said there will probably a meeting of minds between Sarkozy and Bush [on Iran sanctions] but when he goes back to Europe, he might find that he doesn’t have the Europeans behind him.
“Sarkozy can’t do what Blair did. The French public and the French bureaucracy are still quite sceptical of US policy, of the Bush administration,” Kupchan said.
“Sarkozy definitely is more forward leaning on Iran and on being with Bush. But he is going to be very cautious not to go too far because he will simply provoke too much pushback from his own people and from his European friends and neighbours.”
Different relationship
It is a far different relationship than the one Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, had with the US.
Chirac was one of the major world leaders who opposed the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Since assuming the presidency, Sarkozy has tried to make a clean break from Chirac’s policies.
“Here is a country, one of the few across the world apart from Poland, with which we have never been at war. It is really not a reason for us to hate each other,” Sarkozy said a fortnight ago.
Earlier this year, Sarkozy sent Bernard Kouchner, his foreign minister, to Iraq on the first high-level visit by a French official since the invasion.
Kouchner called for European countries to offer help to the US. Both the White House and French government officials stress this visit is about unity and a new way forward in Franco-American relations.
French officials have said Iraq will not be on the agenda during his trip. And while global warming will be discussed, no tangible gains are expected to come from the talks.
The countries also differ on Turkey’s European Union status: France wants to keep Turkey out of the EU, the US wants the opposite.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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