King Juan Carlos Bestows Order of the Golden Fleece to Nicolas Sarkozy
Monday at Madrid’s royal palace saw the ceremony to induct French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Spain’s Order of the Golden Fleece. He was rewarded this for his efforts to cease the Basque separatists group, the ETA’s terrorist activities.
Click here to see more photos of the ceremony
The ceremony took place at the Official Chamber, where King Alfonso XIII appointed his knights. There, His Majesty King Juan Carlos gave Sarkozy the medal of honor – which is Spain’s highest civil honor.
In attendance were Queen Sofia, the Prince and Princess Asturias, and other members of the Golden Fleece, some of them former monarchs themselves. They were Simeon, the former King of Bulgaria, and Constantine, the former King of Greece.
In a speech, King Juan Carlos called Sarkozy a constant ally and praised him for “always making the victims the aim and end of your solidarity.”
He also noted Sarkozy efforts not only as President of France, but also the country’s Interior Minister from 2002-2004 and 2005-2007.
Sarkozy’s knighthood comes two days after France arrested three suspected ETA members.
Since its inception forty years ago, the ETA killed over eight hundred people. In October 2011, it announced it will cease terrorist activities.
The Order of the Golden Fleece began was created in 1430 when King Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, married Princess Isabella of Portugal.
Source: RFI, AP
King Abdullah II Issues Parliamentary Decree While in France
Jordan’s King Abdullah II decreed parliamentary elections to be delayed until March 2010. This is so politicians can amend the country’s detested election law and ensure fair elections by the time elections come around.
The King issued this decree while on a working visit to Paris on Tuesday. He met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss ways to bolster economic ties between France and Jordan, as well as go over the Middle East peace conflict.
Sarkozy and Abdullah are aiming to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. The King wants Europe and France to support the talks. He has accused Israel of breaching international law and of driving out Christians and Muslims.
Nicolas Sarkozy Meets With Saudi King Abdullah
French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Saudi Arabia today for a working visit to the country. He met King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud at the King Khalid International Airport, and was taken to the King’s farm in Janadriya, outside of Riyadh, where Sarkozy will spend the night.
The President’s main purpose on this visit is to urge Mideast peace talks to continue.
“It is urgent because the current deadlock plays into the hands of extremists and each day the chance of peace is slipping away a little,” Sarkozy told a Saudi newspaper.
At the same time, the King and the President probably also discussed France selling helicopters, naval frigates and high-speed trains to a country looking to increase its development. Civilian nuclear agreements was also on the list.
What might also have been discussed was the possibility of a peace conference in Paris. It is rumored President Sarkozy wants to bring together leaders from the Mideast, Russia, United States, plus the UN and the EU to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sarkozy will be leaving Saudi Arabia tomorrow. He will head to Qatar before going back to France.
Emir of Qatar on State Visit to France
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his wife Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Misnned are on a state visit to France until Wednesday. The visit is meant to cement ties between the two countries.
This is the third time the Emir has been to France. In 2007 and 2008, he was a special guest for France’s National Day.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the relationship between France and Qatar as “long-standing and ideal.” He pointed out that many French companies increasingly have branches in the Gulf state.
Sarkozy also mentioned the need for the two countries to boost scientific and cultural ties. He praised Sheikha Mozah’s promotional efforts through the Qatar Foundation of Education, Science and Community Development.
After initial meetings with each other, the Emir and Sarkozy had a glitzy state dinner at Elysees Palace Monday night with their wives dressed to the nines.
Once this state visit is over, both countries would hopefully gain something from one another. France is looking towards Qatar for gas development, and imports Qatari nuclear technology and security equipment. Qatar meanwhile, sees French bilateral ties as a way to diversify its economy.
Spanish Royals Steal Spotlight From Carla Bruni
It was supposed to be yet another visit from a head of state for the royal family of Spain.
But when the head of state’s wife is former supermodel Carla Bruni, the visit is anything but ordinary.
Nicolas Sarkozy brought his ever dazzling wife along for a visit to Spain Monday. He is there to promote his country and strengthen ties with the kingdom.
Carla, meanwhile, is there, so to speak, to make fashionistas and the press go wild with her elegant style.
However, it was the Spanish royals – particularly Crown Princess Letizia – who made the press and fashionistas go crazy.
This happened when Ms. Bruni met the Monarchs and the Crown Princely couple, Felipe and Letizia, at Zarzuela Palace for lunch. It was Crown Princess Letizia Bruni was up against in terms of style. Bruni wore a simple dark blue dress, while the Crown Princess wore a berry colored dress that had a ripple effect.
When Letizia and Carla walked up the stairs of the palace, their shapely derrieres were photographed – leaving quite a few men drooling.
Even more so, the berry colored dress the Crown Princess wore has caught the attention of the English speaking media. Headlines everywhere say Letizia upstaged the French First Lady.
Even if she did, the warm reception between Carla and Letizia was evident during that fateful meeting.
Bruni seems to get along very well with the Spanish royals. So much so, that when she met Queen Sofia, she kissed the Queen’s two cheeks instead of doing the traditional curtsy.
A spokesman for the royal palace explained that a curtsy before a Spanish monarch “is not an absolute obligation, but a habit adopted by some people.”
But President Sarkozy’s visit to Spain is not simply to show off his beautiful wife.
He is there to meet with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to discuss the ETA Basque separatist group especially since its leaders were arrested in France last year.
The two countries will also sign an accord on strengthening their joint efforts against organized crime and drug trafficking.
Paris will also voice its support for Spain’s presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2010.
The visit comes “at a sweet moment in French-Spanish cooperation,” El Mundo said.
Sarkozy Promotes France to Middle East Royals
Nicolas Sarkozy promoted France all over the Middle East these past two days. Following his historic visit to Baghdad, the President of France went to Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, and met with the monarchs of those countries during his tour of the region.
In Oman, Sarkozy aimed to sell French-made aircraft to replace the country’s aging 20 Anglo-French Jaguars. This was to be a challenge since most Middle East countries buy from the English-speaking world.
“These are by tradition Anglo-Saxon countries — fine, but France has its own cards to play,” Sarkozy told journalists before meeting the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said.
“I am not going to leave here empty-handed. We are sowing seeds and then we will fight to defend our companies and bring back contracts,” he said.
Sarkozy tried to do the same in both Bahrain and Kuwait.
In Bahrain, where he became the first French President to visit the Gulf state in 19 years, he told the Gulf State News newspaper about his plans for France to invest in the country.
“France wants to be a partner with Bahrain in its economic and energy diversification policy, in the long-term, for nuclear power,” Sarkozy said in an exclusive interview on his way to Bahrain.
He also said he believes Bahrain’s economy is strong enough to weather the global credit crunch.
“Bahrain’s cautious economic policy means the country is now well armed to face the economic crisis, due in particular to the excellent reputation of its banking system,” the President said.
“Its role as the reference financial centre in the Middle East should come out stronger.
“In addition, as a pioneer in the development of Islamic financial products, the kingdom no doubt has all the trump cards in its hand to assert itself as a global Islamic financial centre, in the same way as Kuala Lumpur in its sphere of influence.”
Sarkozy also added how important it is for peace in the region, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Everyone is aware that there is no military solution to this conflict,” he said.
“There is therefore no alternative to restarting negotiations with a view to creating a viable Palestinian state that is independent, modern and democratic alongside Israel.
“Gaza cannot continue to be the world’s largest open-air prison, but to do this, we have to end illegal arms trafficking”
Once arriving in Manama, the Bahraini capital, President Sarkozy met with King Hamad Al Khalifa.
King Hamad voiced Bahrain’s respect for France as he received the President.
Both leaders emphasised strong bilateral relations, expressing interest in further developing them in various political, economic, educational and cultural fields for the benefit of both countries and their peoples.
Last but not least, Sarkozy went to Kuwait, where he was greeted by Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah.
Again, Sarkozy offered to French products by offering the Emir Rafale combat jets, frigates and an anti-missile defense system.
Kuwait had signed a defense pact with France back in 1991, after the Gulf War. France was part of the international coalition which freed the oil-rich state from Iraqi occupation.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the two countries would also consider updating their defense pact and cementing “a strategic partnership.”
“Defense ministers are in deep discussions,” and will try to reach agreement on the weapons deal by the end of the year, Sarkozy told reporters in Kuwait City.
Sarkozy said France also would open a military base with air force and navy capabilities in the neighboring United Arab Emirates in April “to help (maintain) stability in the area.”
The French base in Abu Dhabi would be one of only a few run by Western powers, including the United States, and would allow French defense contractors to showcase their hardware.