US security advisor on the 'direct' relationship between Sarkozy and Obama
Ahead of a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the US, President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor General James L. Jones tells FRANCE 24 that the relationship between the two men is strong.
Watch the full interview on FRANCE 24 on Monday at 9:45pm Paris time (GMT+2)
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 ahead of a visit to the US by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the US national security advisor, General James L. Jones, said relations between President Barack Obama and his French counterpart remained “very good”.
Sarkozy’s two-day trip to New York and Washington is designed to underscore the close relationship between the two countries at a time when many in Europe have questioned Obama’s commitment to the historical alliance with the continent.
The White House visit will also seek to dispel talk of a rift between Sarkozy – once considered the most pro-American French president in decades – and Obama, who will hold one-on-one talks at the Oval Office.
General Jones, a former NATO commander in Europe, said both presidents were in regular contact with each other and enjoyed a “frank and open” relationship.
“Both know exactly what the other is thinking without worrying about damaging a relationship – and this really saves a lot of time on serious issues,” he said, adding that “on the broad issues the two presidents and the countries are getting along very well”.
Afghanistan and Iran
High on the agenda for the visit are the foreign policy issues of Afghanistan, where France has a military presence as part of the NATO mission, and Iran, where Obama is pushing for tougher sanctions aimed at the country’s nuclear programme.
General Jones said Paris and Washington both agreed on the need for a new set of sanctions against Iran, which they hoped to push through the UN Security Council “by the end of April”.
“We are now moving towards a very aggressive set of sanctions,” he said, adding that the US was “working hand in hand with not only France but also the UK, Germany, Russia, China, and a number of other countries.”
Obama’s national security advisor also hailed the part played by European forces in Afghanistan, describing 2009 as “a banner year for cooperation” between the US and Europe. “Our friends and allies now make up 40% of troops in the country,” General Jones said.
He did however acknowledge that European powers were not spending enough to modernise their armed forces. “If you’re going to play, you have to pay, and there is not two ways around that,” he warned.
Obama is expected to press Sarkozy to bolster the French contingent in Afghanistan, but French officials have been quoted as saying they will send no more.