US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, yesterday.
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama yesterday praised France as a model ally in a world that must do more to meet common threats, laying on the full flourish of a state visit for President Francois Hollande.
Obama hailed France, an increasingly key partner in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, nuclear proliferation and climate change, as he welcomed Hollande on the White House lawn.
The presidents stood side-by-side framed by the red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes and the French tricolor as a 21-gun salute split the air and ranks of troops in dress uniform stood to attention.
“Like generations before us, we now have the task not simply to preserve our enduring alliance but to make it anew for our time,” Obama said.
“No one nation can meet today’s challenges alone or seize its opportunities.
“More nations must step up and meet the responsibilities of leadership, and that is what the United States and France are doing together.”
While disengaging from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington has pressed its European allies to do more to protect their own security in operations like the Libya war — albeit with military and logistical support that the only the US superpower can provide.
Hollande paid tribute to the sacrifice of US soldiers in World the Second War and said the two old allies stand for bedrock principles of universal rights. “Today France and the United States still stand side by side to make these values prevail,” Hollande said.
“We stand together with the United States to address the threats of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons, together to solve the crises faced by the Middle East, together to support Africa’s development, and together to fight global warming and climate change.”
Earlier, a senior US official praised France for helping quell unrest and extremist violence in parts of Africa.
Hollande said yesterday that the two allies had resolved their differences over American digital eavesdropping.
Leaders from many US allies, including Germany’s Chancellor Angel Merkel, were angered by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden’s revelation that the United States monitors their telephone calls.
But it is not known if Hollande’s own telephone was tapped, and France has been more cautious in its critique, emphasizing the importance of its intelligence cooperation with Washington.
“We wanted to fight against terrorism, but we also wanted to meet a number of principles. And we are making headway in this cooperation. Mutual trust has been restored,” Hollande said.
Hollande has not allowed concern over US spying to darken the mood of a much-anticipated state visit to Washington, but he did reiterate European concerns about data privacy in the Internet age.
“Mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data,” he said, during the joint news conference.
The authenticity of the Franco-US alliance, often tumultuous, lies in its resilience: ties are now tightening a decade after they ruptured over Iraq.
Washington has welcomed and provided logistical support for France’s interventions to quell the spread of Islamic militants in Africa’s Sahel region.
The allies are also key players in the group of world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, and blame President Bashar al-Assad for gross atrocities in Syria.
Hollande opened his three-day visit to the United States with a rare flight for a foreign leader aboard Air Force One on Monday.