President Bush says it is time for the United States and Europe to put their disagreements aside and begin a new era of trans-Atlantic unity. The president is reaching out to European leaders on this trip, the first foreign journey of his second term.
Seeking to mend ties frayed by the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush is focusing on the need to put past differences aside and launch an era of cooperation.
That was the theme of his speech at Brussels' opulent Concert Noble, a 19th century building in the heart of a city that is home to NATO and the European Union.
It was billed by the White House as a speech to the European people. The president told them that Europe and the United States must stand together.
"Our strong friendship is essential to peace and prosperity across the globe, and no temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us," said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush also said that past debates are fading and America wants to work with a strong Europe to meet great objectives, starting with the goal of peace in the Middle East.
"After many false starts and dashed hopes and stolen lives, settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is now within reach," he added.
But he said that peace in the region means more than resolving this long-standing dispute. He called for Syria to remove its forces from Lebanon, urged Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and implement reforms, and he appealed to the Europeans to support the move to democracy in Iraq.
"All nations have an interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq, which will fight terror, be a beacon of freedom, and be a source of stability in the region," added Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush did not dwell on the frictions caused by his decision to invade Iraq almost two years ago. Instead he urged Europe to look to the future, and support what he called the world's newest democracy.
"Some Europeans joined the fight to liberate Iraq while others did not,” he noted. “Yet all us recognize courage when we see it and we saw it in the Iraqi people."
The president will discuss the situation in Iraq at length Tuesday with NATO leaders and EU officials. No major breakthroughs are expected, although NATO will likely use the occasion to announce a formal agreement, already partially in effect, that commits all 26 members of the alliance to help with the training of Iraqi security forces.
The agenda for these talks will be extensive, from the greater Middle East to environmental concerns to the EU plan to lift its arms embargo on China. But the emphasis will clearly be on trans-Atlantic fence-mending, with both sides indicating they want to find a way to move forward.
And so this is a trip where the tone may be more important than the substance, especially during the president's conversations with strong critics of the Iraq war. He will host a private dinner Monday for French President Jacques Chirac, who led the opposition to the war at the United Nations. Mr. Bush will meet with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Germany on Wednesday, and on Thursday he will consult in the Slovak Republic with Russian President Vladmir Putin.
In his Brussels speech, Mr. Bush said he believes Russia's future lies in the community of Europe. But he went on to remind the Russians that entry is tied to a commitment to human rights and individual freedoms.
"We recognize that reform will not happen overnight. We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power, and the rule of law," said Mr. Bush.
The president said the United States and Europe must place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia.