Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bush seeks to mend fences with EU

U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac, meeting in Brussels before European Union and NATO summit talks tomorrow, called for Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon. ``We urge full and immediate implementation'' of a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon, the two leaders said in a statement. ``We have the same approach to the situation which is prevailing in Lebanon,'' Chirac said before a dinner with Bush. (Bloomberg)

President George W. Bush yesterday delivered a wide-ranging speech in Brussels, setting out his idea of what the new transatlantic foreign policy agenda should be. But the passage that got loudest applause from his audience of European Union and Nato leaders was his promise of US support for a strong and united Europe. This was not surprising. For what sowed most discord in Europe during Mr Bush's first term was not only the war in Iraq but the US's attempt to exploit differences inside Europe. European leaders were caught between Washington and their respective publics' hostility to the US war in Iraq. Supporters of the war such as Tony Blair have not enjoyed being on the wrong side of their public opinion any more than opponents such as Jacques Chirac, the French president, or Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, enjoyed being in Washington's bad books. (Financial Times)

Bush's blunt warnings to Syria to get out of Lebanon and to Iran to end its nuclear ambitions — and to both to stop what he called their support for terrorism — struck a tough tone that may alarm European publics which strongly opposed the Iraq war. "Just as the Syrian regime must take stronger action to stop those who support violence and subversion in Iraq and must end its support for terrorist groups seeking to destroy the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Syria must end its occupation of Lebanon," he said. He praised diplomatic efforts by Britain, France and Germany to persuade Iran to end nuclear enrichment that could enable it to build a bomb, but offered no US incentive to Tehran to comply, as European Union leaders have sought. Instead, he renewed a veiled threat of military action, saying "no option can be permanently taken off the table." (Times of India, India)

Mr Bush used the keynote address of his European visit to lay out tough terms for Israel before peace could be established in the Middle East. He said that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, must stop all settlement activity in the West Bank. And he went further than ever before in insisting that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank had to be large-scale rather than piecemeal. Referring to the resulting Palestinian state, Mr Bush said: “A state of scattered territories will not work.” The line produced one of the biggest rounds of applause, which was polite if hardly enthusiastic, from the audience of 300 European dignitaries in Brussels. (Times)

Three days before he was to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush scolded Moscow over a series of recent steps widely seen as autocratic and explicitly tied democratic reforms to Russia's relations with the West. "And the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia," said Bush, who was to hold talks with Putin in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Thursday. Alarm bells rang in the United States after Putin's moves against the oil giant Yukos, a clampdown on the media, new Kremlin authority to appoint regional officials and alleged interference in Ukraine's presidential election. (Turkish Press)

A few thousand left-wing and environmentalist demonstrators protested peacefully against Bush's visit outside the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in Brussels, carrying banners such as "Stop Bush" and "Stop the United States of Aggression." Organizers said 10,000 people took part but police put the crowd at about 3,000. (...) EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana welcomed Bush's tone, saying: "The music is very good and the content is very good. A lot of what he said belongs to what we are saying as well." "The president hit many of the right buttons for a European audience," analyst Fraser Cameron of the European Policy Center said, citing the commitment to pursue Middle East peace. (Reuters)

Honestly, Bush's speech doesn't have much value for Europeans as noboby believes he has really changed his ways. Let us just imagine if this speech was taking place before the US elections. He would have been on the left of John Kerry.
What matters most for Europeans is that the Bush administration finally realized the US can't afford to have an "anti-Bush" European Union for 4 more years. That's really what matters.


Financial Times, UK:
Times of India, India:
Times Online, UK:
Turkish Press, Turkey:


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