Moratinos hopes to heal rift with Bush over Iraq

13th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

13 April 2005, MADRID-Spain's top diplomat was heading for Washington on an official visit to heal the rift with US over Madrid's foreign policy.

13 April 2005

MADRID-Spain's top diplomat was heading for Washington on an official visit to heal the rift with US over Madrid's foreign policy.

Foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will attempt to drive home Madrid's desire for good relations with US President George W Bush's administration.

Moratinos, who will arrive on Wednesday on the three-day trip which culminates with a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The minister's official agenda will commence the same day in New York with meetings at the UN.

But he will spend the major portion of his visit in Washington, where the meeting with Rice will take place on Friday.

Madrid expects disagreements to continue with the Bush administration over Iraq and over Spain's policy of dialogue with Cuba and the left-leaning administration in Venezuela.

But Moratinos aims to assure Washington that the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attaches the greatest importance to ties with the United States and wants to explore all possibilities for closer bilateral cooperation.

In the minister's own words, the two nations share a "broad, multiple, intense, essential and strategic" agenda to which Spain can contribute "elements of stability and reinforcement to general policies of the United States in different parts of the world."

Relations between Washington and Madrid have been frosty since Zapatero, in one of his first acts after taking office a year ago, pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq.

His conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, had sent them to bolster the US enterprise there.

Moratinos plans to outline to Rice the objectives of Spanish policies toward what Madrid likes to call Ibero-America, with an emphasis on the problematic issues of  Venezuela and Cuba.

The minister will stress that Spain agrees with the US on the need to protect freedom and human rights in the region.

The Bush administration, however, has already voiced displeasure with Spain's sale of naval patrol boats and transport planes to Venezuela as well as unease about Madrid's push to renew dialogue with Castro's Cuba.

In fact, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick raised those points with Moratinos when the two men met recently in Europe.

Moratinos acknowledges US officials are openly sceptical of Madrid's ability to exert a positive influence on Latin American leaders like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, but he says that, with time, the US will recognize Spain's contribution to reconciliation and democracy in the region.

The minister also expects to discuss with Rice the impending new deployment of Spanish troops to Afghanistan, where they will take charge of a provincial reconstruction team and provide logistical support to an Italian-led garrison in Herat.

Moratinos likewise hopes to touch on the Middle East peace process when he talks to Rice.

The Spaniard said a "strong constructive engagement" by the United States will be necessary to make the most of what he described as "the best opportunity for definitive peace."

Besides the discussions with his US counterpart, Moratinos will meet US politicians, major Jewish organizations and fellow countryman Rodrigo Rato, who heads the International Monetary Fund.

Moratinos' visit will start a series of high-level Spanish diplomatic missions to the US over the next month, with the ministers of interior, defence, justice and education all set to travel to Washington.

Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia are expected to make an official visit to the United States later this year.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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