Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice flies to Brussels Wednesday to meet NATO and Belgian officials after talks in Paris with French leaders that both sides say put their strained relationship on a better footing. Ms. Rice spoke of a new page in relations after a bitter rift over Iraq.
France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and actively worked in the Security Council against a United Nations endorsement of it.
But the passage of time, and the holding of what are widely seen as successful elections in Iraq January 30th, appear to be healing the rift.
Secretary Rice held what U.S. officials said were very good and constructive meetings with French President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Michel Bernier.
At a joint news conference with Ms. Rice, Mr. Bernier, heard through an interpreter, said the time has come to get off to a new start in the long-standing and deep-rooted in the relationship. "Let me say loud and clear that I believe the world is a better place, a better place, when Europeans and Americans cooperate. The world is a better place when Europeans and Americans work hand-in-glove, when they work together, when they exchange their views and their analysis while respecting one another's specific views and specific sensitivities," he said.
For her part, Secretary Rice said it is a time for a reinvigoration of the two countries' long-standing partnership and friendship and to turn a new page.
Earlier Tuesday, in the major policy statement of her first overseas mission, Ms. Rice said the United States and Europe should turn away from the disagreements of the past. "It is time to open a new chapter in our relationship and a new chapter in our alliance. America stands ready to work with Europe on our common agenda, and Europe must stand ready to work with America. After all, history will surely judge us not by our disagreements but by our new achievements," she said.
Ms. Rice urged Europeans to support emerging peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, and to make it clear to Syria and Iran that they must stop supporting terrorists who she said seek to destroy every chance for peace.
In Brussels, the Secretary will meet fellow NATO foreign ministers at a luncheon meeting expected to be dominated by Iraq and commitments by alliance members to train Iraqi security forces.
The Secretary's trip, laying groundwork for President Bush's European mission later this month, ends Thursday in Luxembourg and meetings with top officials of the European Union.