French President Jacques Chirac flies to the United States Tuesday for talks with U.S. officials. While there, he also plans to talk with U.N. leaders. The trip illustrates the heightened role of European diplomacy in the weeks following the terrorist attacks in the United States.
Mr. Chirac will meet with President George Bush in Washington and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York for talks that are expected to focus on Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was also the subject Sunday night, when the French president joined fellow European Union leaders at a dinner meeting hosted by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. In addition to Afghanistan, the EU leaders also discussed the simmering Middle East conflict. Mr. Blair also travels to Washington, on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in London, President Chirac expressed solidarity with the Bush administration, but also noted that military action was not the only way to fight terrorism. He said finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, including establishing a Palestinian state, was essential. Mr. Chirac said the Middle East conflict was not necessarily feeding terrorism, but it was certainly facilitating it by creating a situation favorable to extremists.
The French President last visited the United States in September, only days after the September 11 strikes on New York and the Pentagon. More recently, French diplomats have traveled to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia to shore up Muslim support for the war against terrorism.
Later this week, the French leader continues his diplomatic whirlwind with meetings in Paris with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.