- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2003

Trans-Atlantic test

Czech Ambassador Martin Palous believes U.S.-European relations are facing a “critical test” in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, which drove a diplomatic wedge between “old” and “new” Europe.

Mr. Palous, writing in the latest Czech Embassy newsletter, expressed hopes for the repair of the “destroyed bridges” between the war opponents, chiefly Belgium, France and Germany, and the rest of Europe, which mostly supported the U.S.-led coalition. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld famously labeled the opponents as “old Europe” and the supporters, which included the nations freed of communist domination, as “new Europe.”

“Trans-Atlantic relations are now undergoing a critical test, [because of] the opposition of the U.S. approach to the resolution of the Iraqi crisis, strongly voiced by several European countries in recent months,” he wrote.

“All Central European states, including the Czech Republic, have unanimously spoken up as convinced Atlanticists and as supporters of strong relations between Europe and America. And we have acted accordingly.

“Our sincere hope is that the current difference of opinion will be overcome as soon as possible and that the destroyed bridges will be rebuilt, that the calm, unprejudiced reflection of what has happened and the open dialogue about all of the sensitive matters and divisive questions will heal the wounds suffered during the recent controversy.”

Mr. Palous said the U.S.-led coalition achieved a “spectacular victory in Iraq that will be remembered in military history textbooks.” He also predicted that the removal of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and the reconstruction of Iraq will have a “lasting effect on the coming shape of international relations.”

The ambassador said his country assisted coalition forces in Iraq by sending a field hospital and a military unit that specializes in chemical and biological weapons.

Mr. Palous also noted that the Czech Republic has attained its two foreign-policy priorities by joining NATO and being invited to join the European Union.

The enlargement of the EU to include former communist countries “will bring to an end the division of Europe caused by the rise of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century,” he wrote.

“For Czechs, as for all other ‘post-totalitarians,’ it means the completion of the task of ‘returning to Europe’ that was set forth more than 13 years ago when we were released from the Babylonian captivity of communism,” he wrote.

Saudi public diplomacy

Facing a public relations crisis in the United States, the Saudi Embassy yesterday announced a nationwide advertising campaign to portray Saudi Arabia as a victim of extremists and a reliable ally in President Bush’s war on terrorism.

“Despite all of the attention we have received, few people know what Saudi Arabia looks like or appreciate how far we have come in the last 30 years,” Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan said in a statement, announcing the campaign. “We are a modern nation with normal people living normal lives.”

Saudi Arabia has been pummeled by accusations that it has hindered investigations into terrorist activities and funneled money into organizations that sponsored suicide bombings and other attacks against civilians. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks were Saudis.

Prince Bandar yesterday said Saudi Arabia is also the victim of terrorism, citing the recent bombings in the capital, Riyadh.

“The terrorists responsible for the recent tragedies in Riyadh reminded us that there are no distinctions to race, religion or nationality in such horrific acts,” he said. “We are in the same boat, and we must work together to destroy them.”

Prince Bandar said his government is a strong ally in the war on terrorism.

“The level of cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia is described by law-enforcement authorities in both countries as excellent,” he said.

The embassy said the advertisements will run in the 25 top media markets this month.

“These ads are one way of telling the American people about Saudi Arabia,” Prince Bandar said. “Over the past 30 years, the kingdom has made tremendous progress in all areas. Currently, there are big changes going on in Saudi Arabia, and we want Americans to know about them.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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