NATO Leaders gathered along the French-German border Saturday for the
summit to mark the alliance's 60th anniversary. Events are being
marked by remembrances of the past and plans for the future.
was a symbolic beginning to a day of ceremony and discussions. German
Chancellor Angela Merkel met NATO leaders on the German side of the
Rhine River and together they walked across a bridge where they were
met by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who then welcomed them into France.
bugle call and a moment of silence for NATO soldiers who have died in
past and current combat missions - including in Afghanistan where over
1,000 NATO coalition troops have been killed.
NATO Secretary-General Japp de Hoop Scheffer opened the day's formal meetings.
these past 60 years, NATO has contributed to an unprecedented period of
peace, freedom and prosperity for all its citizens. It is testimony to
what can be achieved by a transatlantic community that acts with a
clear sense of common purpose," he said.
President Sarkozy said
the fact that France and Germany, once such bitter enemies, were
co-hosting this anniversary summit is testimony to what NATO has
"There have been millions dead between us, he said,
and it is now our duty to cherish the friendship between our two
peoples as a special treasure," he said.
formally announced that France is rejoining NATO's integrated military
command, after a more than 40 year hiatus. The French leader also had
a warm welcome for U.S. President Barack Obama.
"We've heard the
words he spoke on behalf of the world's number one democracy, he said
- we've been waiting for these words for a long and he should know that
the has friends and that Europe will from now on be an even stronger
pillar that he can count on," he said.
The French leader also
praised the Obama administration's new strategy on Afghanistan - with
its focus on training Afghan security forces and emphasis on both
military operations and civilian development work.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also endorsed the new Obama concept.
said the new American strategy fits well into the shared thinking among
NATO members. "We want Afghanization," she said. "We want Afghanistan
to be able to defend itself and ensure that no threat of terrorism
emanates from its territory."
She promised that Germany would continue to fulfill its commitments in Afghanistan.
And, two new members joined the alliance at this summit.
President Obama formally welcomed Albania and Croatia.
to NATO. We are excited about your participation," he said. "The
alliance is 60 years old and it is a measure of our vitality that we
are still welcoming new members."
President Obama said the door to additional members remains open.
The summit ends later in the day.