France’s President Francois Hollande has been honored at a lavish White House state dinner, the first since 2011.
At the party, Francois Hollande and President Barack Obama toasted the nations’ centuries-old friendship.
They have suggested the bad feelings over US spying and French opposition to the Iraq War have been soothed.
Among the guests at Tuesday’s state dinner were diplomats and dignitaries from both governments, as well as leaders in the media and business.
Hollywood luminaries in attendance included Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling, Stephen Colbert, Julie Louis-Dreyfus and director JJ Abrams.
The roughly 300 guests dined on caviar, quail eggs and rib-eye steak, later listening to a performance from singer Mary J. Blige.
After being welcomed to the White House by Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Francois Hollande was seated between the couple at the dinner table in a heated tent on the South Lawn.
The move was seen as a tactful way to handle the fact that Francois Hollande arrived alone after an ugly, widely publicized split from long-time partner Valerie Trierweiler following reports he had an affair with an actress.
The highlights of the evening were toasts given by the two presidents.
With a glass of white wine in his hand, Barack Obama opened by quoting French writer Alexis de Tocqueville’s impressions of 19th Century America, recalling to humorous effect his bafflement with American cuisine and his underwhelming impression of the White House.
“We Americans have grown to love all things French – the films, the food, the wine,” Barack Obama continued.
“But most of all, we love our French friends because we have stood together for our freedom for more than 200 years.
“Vive la France, God bless America, and long live the alliance between our great nations.”
Speaking first in English, Francois Hollande acknowledged the sacrifice of the US soldiers who fought in France during World War Two and said that France felt America’s pain at the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Continuing in French, Francois Hollande praised French-US diplomatic and military co-operation in the Middle East and Africa, and said the two countries would work jointly for economic growth and to combat climate change.
Francois Hollande said relations between the two countries had reached “an exceptional level of closeness and confidence” because they shared the “universal values” of freedom, democracy and respect for the law.
“We love Americans, although we don’t always say so and you love the French, but you are sometimes too shy to say so,” Francois Hollande said.
At a news conference after bilateral talks earlier on Tuesday, Francois Hollande said he and Barack Obama had resolved their issues over digital eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (NSA).
“Mutual trust has been restored,” he said.
Barack Obama also announced he had accepted Francois Hollande’s invitation to go to France in June to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy during World War Two.
Today, Francois Hollande will travel to San Francisco and meet chiefs of Silicon Valley giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google.
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