U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and French President Francois Hollande shake hands after speaking to the media during a news conference in the East Room at the White House on February 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- President Obama welcomed France's Francois Hollande to
the White House on Tuesday, marking the first time that the French have
been honored with a state visit in nearly 20 years.
In remarks at a
formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn, Obama reflected on the
long ties between the U.S. and France, dating back to the American and
"It's no exaggeration that we stand here
because of each other," said Obama, who took a moment in his remarks to
recognize two U.S. World War II veterans who fought at Normandy who
attended the ceremony. "We owe our freedom to each other."
the U.S.-Franco relationship was strained over George W. Bush's decision
to invade Iraq, France has proven to be one of the United States'
closest partners on national security matters over the last five years.
two countries have helped lead the way in reaching an interim agreement
to curb Iran's nuclear program through the P5+1 and have worked closely
to end the three-year-old civil war in Syria. Even before Hollande
began his presidency last year, the Obama administration coordinated
closely with the French on Afghanistan and Libya.
France has also
played a key role in dealing with security challenges in combating the
rise of Islamic militants in places such as Mali and the Central African
Republic, with airlift and other logistical support coming from the
"Mr. President, like generations before us, we now
have the task to not simply preserve our enduring alliance, but to make
it new for our time," Obama said. "To our French friends, I say let's do
even more together for the security that our citizens deserve, for the
prosperity that they seek, and for the dignity of people around the
world who seek what we declared two centuries ago - those unalienable
rights, those sacred rights of men."
Poor polling numbers in
France and problems with his love life loomed over Hollande as he
arrived in the U.S. for the three-day visit, which started with a tour
of Thomas Jefferson's estate at Monticello in Virginia on Monday and
will conclude Wednesday with a side trip to San Francisco to meet tech
Last month, Hollande announced that he has split with
companion and France's first lady, Valérie Trierweiler. The split
followed reports that Hollande had been having an affair with actress
In his remarks, Hollande focused on the challenges
that lay ahead for the United States and France, including combating
terrorism, removing chemical weapons in Syria, and reversing the scourge
of global warming and climate change.
"Today we stand united and
we have built a model of friendship, a friendship that is the best
recipe for a better world," Hollande said.
Hollande, who is
scheduled to visit Arlington National Cemetery, said that he would honor
several American World War II veterans who helped liberate France from
Nazi Germany with his country's medal of distinction. He will also
present the award to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington.
wish to demonstrate the fact that France will never forgot the spirit of
sacrifice shown by these American soldiers, nameless heroes who left
their homes to liberate my country and Europe," said Hollande, who
invited Obama to come to France this summer to mark the 70th anniversary
of the Normandy landing.
Obama and Hollande were scheduled to hold meetings at the White House on Tuesday morning before a noon joint news conference.
will be honored with a luncheon at the State Department, and then
honored on Tuesday night with state dinner at the White House.
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