» Wednesday, November 17, 2004

President Chirac’s visit/French Relations

Asked if there was any more information on President Chirac’s visit, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that there was no further information at the moment.

Asked if there was any response to President Chirac’s comments that the Iraq war made the world more dangerous, the PMOS replied that he had run out of his French yesterday. President Chirac’s position on the Iraq war was well known, and as we had said before, security had not become an issue with the war. 9/11 happened before the Iraq War, and Saddam Hussain’s effect on Iraq and the instability he had brought to the region had been documented on many occasions. President Chirac had his view, as did the Prime Minister, but they would be discussing the many areas, both inside and outside Europe where they had agreed objectives.

Asked how long the intended meeting between the President and the Prime Minister would be, the PMO replied about a couple of hours.

Asked if President Chirac’s views were holding back the relationship between the UK, the US and Europe, the PMOS replied that it was not up to us to dictate what views President Chirac held, and of course France was an important partner, which was why we were continuing to celebrate the Entente Cordiale. Within Europe, however, there was a wide range of views, and especially in the enlarged countries, there were views similar to our own. There is the consensus for the need to move forward on issues like the Middle East and Africa.

Asked if Chirac was proving a barrier to the improved relations within Europe, the PMOS replied that the question sounded like a headline in the making, and he was not going to oblige it. Chirac’s position, as the PMOS had said yesterday as well (in his "very bad French"!), did not come as a surprise, and people should be grown up about the issue. There was a difference in view, but that did not mean that we could not work together on significant issues.

Asked how important it was that there was better cooperation between Presidents Bush and Chirac, especially over the Iraq War, and to allow the transatlantic relationship to be strengthened, the PMOS answered that the relationship between the two was a matter for them, but in terms of working together, for example on Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, the important thing was to maintain the dialogue and understand that there would be different roles being played.

Asked if the Prime Minister was surprised that President Chirac had chosen to highlight the issues that divided us, rather than united us, the PMOS said no. The Prime Minister was neither surprised at the views, nor that he had chosen to air them. The only surprise was that the journalist appeared to be surprised!

Asked about whether the Prime Minister would prefer his relationship with President Chirac to be like that between David Blunkett and Nicolas Zarkozy, when he was the French Minister for State dealing with immigration, the PMOS relied that the Prime Minister believed that the cooperation between the two ministers had been very useful, but if he was being invited to intervene in French politics he would decline the kind invitation.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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