Aznar ‘irrelevant for Spaniards’ says Moratinos
22 April 2004
WASHINGTON – Spain’s foreign minister dismissed the “personal” telephone call former Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar made this week to President George W. Bush, expressing regret over the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, it was reported Thursday.
Miguel Moratinos said: “It’s a personal call to which one mustn’t give great importance.
“The advantage that Spaniards now have is that Aznar’s private decisions (that once) had a bearing – without debate and without democratic support – on all Spaniards, no longer affect them.”
“Aznar is now free to call President Bush – who is his friend, and we respect that – but it no longer affects a foreign policy that has the backing and support of all Spanish society,” said Moratinos.
Aznar phoned Bush on Tuesday to express his regrets over the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq, the White House said.
Spain’s new Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, had telephoned the president on Monday to inform him of his decision to recall Spain’s 1,300 soldiers in Iraq as soon as possible in keeping with his campaign promise.
Bush told Zapatero he regretted the decision to abruptly pull out Spanish troops from Iraq, the White House said.
Moratinos, who travelled to Washington to brief US officials in detail on Zapatero’s decision, said earlier Wednesday that “the redeployment of the Spanish troops (being withdrawn from) Iraq is not on the agenda” in his government’s dialogue with the United States.
He made the comments after a much-anticipated meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The two discussed the situation in Iraq and reviewed the state of bilateral relations in the wake of Zapatero’s announcement on the Middle East country.
“We haven’t gone into detail concerning the redeployment or compensation,” Moratinos said, apparently referring to the idea that Spain would seek to soothe US anger over the withdrawal from Iraq by boosting its troop contingent in Afghanistan.
“What there is,” the foreign minister said, “is a general commitment on Spain’s part to fight terrorism and ensure its peace missions have the support of the United Nations.”
The new Spanish foreign minister, after having lunch with Powell, called the meeting “extremely cordial, friendly and enormously positive,” but he said the secretary had expressed the United States’ “disappointment” with the decision to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.
In a departure from his usual practice, Powell did not join his visitor to address reporters outside the State Department.
But Moratinos insisted that Powell’s message “had been clear. We are looking to the future. The decision to return the troops (from Iraq) is the decision of yesterday.”
He added: “The main concern of Secretary of State Powell and myself (is) to convey this message that Spain and the United States will be very, very close allies in order to defeat this blight on humanity,” he said, alluding to the war on terror.
“We have a strong friendship with the United States and the determination of both administrations is to work together in areas that have a common challenge for all of us.”
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news