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American Forces Press Service

Gates, French Defense Minister Reaffirm Defense Ties

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

PARIS, June 5, 2007 – Meeting here today on the eve of the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and French Defense Minister Herve Morin agreed to work toward strengthening their two countries’ historic ties.

Morin told reporters after a 45-minute session with Gates that he considers it “a great honor” that Gates is the first foreign defense leader to visit since Morin took office two weeks ago.

Gates called today’s meeting “a good introductory conversation” that covered a full range of defense issues.

Morin said he and Gates shared many common views during their discussions and agreed that they want to work together and collaborate on a variety of issues.

He reiterated France’s support for the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, and the Darfur, Sudan, peacekeeping effort.

Asked about France’s commitment to Afghanistan, Morin said: “Our role is not to remain forever.” Rather, he said, the goal is to develop and reinforce Afghanistan’s own institutions so it can stand on its own. He called training of Afghanistan’s security forces a priority.

Both leaders said they look forward to visiting Normandy together tomorrow, the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, when thousands of Americans died storming the beaches. Gates is slated to speak at the American Cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer during ceremonies marking the anniversary.

“At the same time we will memorialize those who gave their lives on D-Day, we will also acknowledge and celebrate the long ties that have bound both the United States and France,” Gates said.

Morin told reporters his father reminded him often “how much we owe to all the Allied soldiers, especially the young Americans who came to die on our beaches.”

“The American graveyards have a great and deep significance,” he said.

Gates’ visit follows Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent election as France’s new president. Sarkozy, who has advocated closer relations with the United States, will meet this week with President Bush and other European, Canadian, Japanese and Russian leaders during the G8 conference in Germany.

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