President Obama's Normandy trip, 'Obama beach,' and Sarkozy snub?
By April MacIntyre Jun 6, 2009, 18:17 GMT
US President Barack Obama listens to a speech as WWII veterans sit in the background as they attend a memorial ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the Allied Normandy beach landings in the US war cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mer, Normandy in Northern France, 06 June 2009. EPA/IAN LANGSDON
President Obama trip to Normandy has not been without incident.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown fluffed a line in his speech, referring to Omaha Beach as "Obama Beach" (video below) and the press has been in overdrive speculating there is a possible rift once again between the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy and the American president, due to some remarks Sarkozy was heard saying with regards to Obama's grasp of certain issues. "He has only been elected for two months and has never managed a ministry in his life," Sarkozy was quoted as saying by Liberation newspaper.
Sarkozy's office at the Elysee Palace denied the remarks.
Sarkozy was further quoted as saying that during the recent summit meetings in Europe he had told Obama, in reference to the European Union's climate agreement, that "I don't think you have quite understood what we (the EU) have done on the subject of CO2."
In the days leading up to Obama's stop in Normandy for the D-Day ceremony, where Queen Elizabeth II is noticeably absent, the media in Europe are speculating the Obamas declined a dinner invitation from Sarkozy due to the ongoing patronizing comments Sarkozy is credited with, yet keeps denying through his official office.
"President Obama's reluctance to spend more than minimum time with the French leader on his visit for the D-Day anniversary has come as an embarrassment to the Elysee Palace," the Times of London reported.
Fox news reports that Obama has denied any brewing rift between France and the US. "What it means is that I have a very tough schedule," he said. "I would love nothing more than to have a leisurely week in Paris, stroll down the Seine, take my wife out to a nice meal, have a picnic. ... Those days are over, for the moment."
Obama reiterated the US commitment to keeping France a close ally. "I think it's important to understand that good friends don't worry about the symbols and the conventions and the protocols," he said. "The United States is a critical friend and ally of France and vice versa. I personally consider Nicolas Sarkozy a friend. I think he feels the same way. And so, since I know I can always pick up the phone and talk to him, it's not necessary for me to spend huge amounts of time other than just getting business done when I'm here."
Many Americans are at a loss as why Queen Elizabeth II was not involved in the ceremony, knowing her hands-on involvement in helping Londoners during the bombings. The Queen, just a teenager then, continued efforts in volunteerism with the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she was trained to drive and repair heavy transport vehicles.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had shared that Barack Obama wanted the Queen to be included in ceremonies honouring the 65th anniversary of D-Day in in Normandy, France.
Buckingham Palace said she wasn't invited to attend.
French officials denied they snubbed the Queen and said she was welcome to come to the event and blamed the British for deciding who should attend the predominately "Franco-American ceremony."