Elizabeth ends France visit
TOULOUSE, France, April 7 (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II of Britain wrapped up a three-day state visit to France with a trip to Toulouse on Wednesday after a series of engagements in Paris in which she urged the two countries to bury their differences over Iraq and cooperate in the fight against terrorism.
The monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, returned to London late Wednesday in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Entente Cordiale agreement which was the main reason of her entire visit.
That document, sealed on April 8, 1904, settled a number of international disputes between Britain and France and set the stage for the military alliance that helped bring victory for the allies in two world wars.
Queen Elizabeth used references to the spirit of the agreement to make a rare foray into geo-politics when she made speeches to host President Jacques Chirac and French deputies.
“We cannot allow current political tensions, whatever the feelings they create on one side or the other, to divide us over the long term,” she said in a diplomatically-worded address during a state banquet on Monday, soon after arriving on a special Eurostar train through the Channel tunnel and attending a wreath-laying ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe.
“We know that neither our two great nations, nor Europe, nor the Atlantic alliance, can allow themselves to be shaken apart or to have disputes in the face of the threats which confront all of us and our safety and our prosperity,” she said.
On Tuesday, during a busy day involving an inspection of British art at the Louvre museum, a walk through a busy cobble-stone shopping street and a viewing of elite horsemanship, she appealed to British and French dignitaries gathered at the ornate French senate building for closer cooperation.
The European Union was “the main vector” for the economic and political aspirations of Britain and France, she said, but added that “this choice does not restrict the ties of friendship which link them to the United States, and should not restrict them – this is a complementary relationship.”
She said Paris and London must jointly face up to “the dangerous world in which we live,” particularly in the form of military alliances, coordination on the UN Security Council and through each country’s influence in the Commonwealth and the organisation of French-speaking states.
Her time in Toulouse, in southwest France, was bound by protocol and pomp rather than politics.
After arriving at the city’s airport wearing a purple hat and a coat, she was whisked off to lunch with the mayor, Philippe Douste-Blazy, who has also just become French health minister in a government reshuffle.
Later, she inspected the headquarters of the European aircraft consortium Airbus in the company of Chirac’s wife Bernadette and French Justice Minister Dominique Perben.
After looking at a new Airbus A340-600 bought by the British airline Virgin Atlantic and dubbed “Queen of the Skies”, the British head of state told employees: “It is a pleasure to see so many Britons working alongside their French colleagues.”
She and her husband then headed back to the airport for their flight back to London, and Buckingham Palace.
Subject: French news