US envoy declares Spain still 'ally and partner'
4 April 2005, MADRID-US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick used weekend talks with Spanish leaders to stress that Madrid and Washington are allies.
4 April 2005
MADRID-US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick used weekend talks with Spanish leaders to stress that Madrid and Washington are allies.
But Zoellick admitted, in an interview published in the Spanish daily El Pais, that differences remain following their fallout over Iraq.
"Spain is an ally and a partner. We have many common interests and that will remain the case, independent of who is in power in Spain or the United States," Zoellick told El Pais daily.
Zoellick used his tour of European capitals to hold talks with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos in Madrid and also had two hours of unscheduled talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who invited him to his Moncola residence.
The charm offensive was overdue with bilateral relations soured by disagreement over Iraq, the Socialist Zapatero having infuriated the US administration by withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq weeks after taking office in April last year.
Washington has also been annoyed at Zapatero's willingness to court Latin American leaders it mistrusts, particularly leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as Madrid looks to cement ties with its Spanish-speaking former colonies in South America.
"The prime minister was very kind and we were able to discuss various topics," El Pais quoted Zoellick as saying, adding that "he (Zapatero) will go to Washington soon."
Moratinos is already scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on 15 April for what will be their first formal talks following a brief exchange in Brussels in February.
Bilateral relations were excellent under Zapatero's conservative predecessor Jose Maria Aznar, who enthusiastically backed the US-led war in Iraq.
Last year, Zapatero's Defence Minister Jose Bono remarked that Spain no longer intended "to bend the knee" to Washington but Zoellick preferred to see the positives as he noted that "we are working very closely with Spain in the war on terrorism."
In particular, Zoellick noted close cooperation in Afghanistan, while admitting that on Iraq "there are enormous divergences which will continue to be apparent."
But he added that "there are also discrepancies within Europe."
Zoellick confirmed US concern at Madrid's willingness to sell military hardware to the Chavez regime.
"Spain has very close links with Latin America. What is currently important is to know how it is going to use this influence. I expressed my concern over the risk Chavez could represent," Zoellick confirmed.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news