French President’s visit to US to highlight security cooperation, free trade

First state visit by a French leader to the U.S. in nearly two decades.

First state visit by a French leader to the U.S. in nearly two decades.

WASHINGTON - French President Francois Hollande will kick off an official state visit to the United States on Monday - the first by a French leader in nearly two decades.

Hollande will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base in Virginia, and the two will then fly to Monticello, the historic residence of former U.S President Thomas Jefferson.

The tour of Jefferson’s residence is meant to highlight ties between the U.S. and France, where Jefferson served as U.S. ambassador from 1785 to 1789.

On Tuesday, the White House will host Hollande in the morning, and then - following an arrival ceremony - Obama and his French counterpart will hold a bilateral meeting and press conference.

Hollande will then depart for the State Department where Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry will host him for lunch. The day will be capped by a state dinner at the White House.

During the trip, the U.S. and its oldest ally will address a host of foreign policy objectives, including security in the Sahel, Syria’s ongoing conflict, and negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

“The U.S. and France have been very aligned in working towards a common position through the P5+1 to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear issue," said a senior administration official not authorized to speak on the record. "The two presidents will discuss the preparations for those negotiations and the implementation of the current joint action plan.”

Negotiations between Iran and world powers are set to resume February 18 in Vienna.

Concerning the Syrian conflict, the senior administration official said that bolstering the “moderate opposition,” and working with the Security Council to improve humanitarian access inside Syria would be topics of discussion.

Beyond the security agenda, Hollande will discuss on-going free trade negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the U.S.

“Both our country and the countries of Europe face some very difficult decisions as we come closer to agreement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. But we`ll be looking to France for leadership on this issue because its role is crucial in securing an agreement that sets really a new standard for a 21st Century trade agreement,” said the official.

The U.S. and EU concluded the third round of trade talks December 20 in Washington, D.C. The next round will be in Brussel from March 10-March 14.

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