- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

France notes victory

The French ambassador congratulated Americans over the weekend on their “great military victory” — not the one in Iraq, but the one in Yorktown, Va., more than 200 years ago.

Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, speaking at a commemoration ceremony in Yorktown, said “Franco-American friendship [was] forged” during the decisive battle of the American Revolution.

In 1781 at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, a French fleet under Adm. Francois Joseph de Grasse blocked Britain from reinforcing the trapped British commander, Lord Cornwallis, who surrendered to George Washington, supported by French troops under Gen. Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau.

Mr. Levitte also took the occasion to thank the United States for coming to France’s aid in both world wars.

“You wanted France to be free, and, as a free people, we express our views,” Mr. Levitte said, referring to France’s opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“Only true friends and family members can argue their difference through frank and candid discussions,” he added. “On Iraq, it triggered a diplomatic hurricane, a political Isabel. But today the storm is abating … and we rediscover that our alliance has survived, and the tight bond of friendship which has united us for 222 years is truly indestructible.”

The ambassador said France supports the United States with troops in Afghanistan and is prepared to help reconstruct Iraq, although it has not yet pledged any aid.

“In Iraq, despite past differences, France is willing to help because what is at stake today is enormous — the future of the Iraqi people, the future of the Middle East and the future of relations between the Muslim world and the Western world,” he said.

Turkish pressure

A top U.S. diplomat yesterday urged Turkey to pressure Turkish Cypriots into accepting a settlement for the reunification of Cyprus.

Thomas Weston, the U.S. special coordinator for Cyprus, delivered the message in a private meeting with Turkish officials, according to reports from the capital, Ankara.

Mr. Weston also expressed concerns about the fairness of parliamentary elections scheduled for December in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey. The Greek-Cypriot authority is the internationally recognized government of Cyprus.

“Weston wants Turkey to focus on a solution after the election and to put more pressure on [the TRNC],” one official told reporters.

Mr. Weston, who also plans to visit Greece and Cyprus, declined to comment on his talks.

The Turkish official said Mr. Weston was endorsing a reunification plan proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which was rejected by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

Mr. Denktash’s political opposition, which supports the U.N. plan, is expected to win the elections, according to recent public opinion polls. Mr. Denktash’s supporters, however, say they expect to retain power.

Reopen in Malabo

The United States reopened its embassy in the oil-rich West African nation of Equatorial Guinea, eight years after it was closed officially because of budget cuts.

Walter Kansteiner, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, attended a ceremony last week at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Malabo. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said the reopening of the embassy is a “major event in the country’s history.”

The country’s political opposition said the United States closed the embassy in 1995 to protest human rights abuses, which also led to a cutoff of aid programs by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Ten U.S. oil companies dominate the industry in Equatorial Guinea, where major offshore oil reserves were discovered in 1992.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com

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