Spain ready to aid US rapprochement with Muslim nations

April 8th, 2009 - 4:32 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Istanbul, April 8 (EFE) Spain Tuesday announced that it was ready to help the US in reaching out to Muslim countries that President President Barack Obama announced in his speech to the Turkish parliament Monday.
“The United States knows that Spain has the ability, influence, understanding and experience (in the Muslim countries) and, therefore, we’re going to work in that regard,” Spainsh Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said here Tuesday.

This was one of the issues that Obama and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero discussed at their meeting in Prague last Sunday, Moratinos told EFE.

Obama and Zapatero were “on the same wavelength and (there was) a very positive atmosphere” between the two men, the Spanish minister said, adding that Spain and the US “are partners, friends and allies”, and they want to “strengthen and intensify their relations”.

Regarding Obama’s participation Monday at a reception in honour of those invited to the Second Alliance of Civilisations Forum, Moratinos said he was “convinced” that there is a rapprochement under way between Washington and the initiative devised by Spain and Turkey.

Over 1,500 leaders, ministers, businessmen, journalistan and representatives of civil society organisations participated in the Civilisation Forum held in Istanbul Monday. Launched in 2005, the fourm seeks to reduce misunderstanding between the West and the Islamic world and address tensions across cultural divides that threaten to inflame existing political conflicts or trigger new ones.

“I think that the Obama administration’s focus on international relations - supporting multilateralism, dialogue and respect for others and intelligent diplomacy - fully coincides with the Alliance of Civilisations,” Moratinos added.

He said that no firm details had been discussed yet regarding the possible visits of Zapatero to the US and Obama to Spain.

Bilateral relations between Spain and the US were strained under the Bush administration, which gave Madrid the cold shoulder after Zapatero pulled Spain’s 1,300 troops out of Iraq in May 2004.

The premier, who campaigned on a promise to end Spanish involvement in Iraq, was swept into office in March 2004 when his Socialists upset the ruling conservatives in an election held just three days after 191 people were killed on Madrid commuter trains in bombings by Muslim militants angry over the US-led war.

But Zapatero has maintained Spain’s commitment to the NATO operation in Afghanistan, where 87 Spanish military personnel have been killed since 2002.

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