Trump, first lady to host state dinner in April for Spain

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host the administration’s third state dinner in April, for King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain, the White House announced Tuesday.

The fancy, black-tie dinner — a diplomatic tool often reserved for America’s staunchest allies — is part of a state visit scheduled for April 21 to celebrate close ties between the two countries, press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

“The visit will celebrate our two countries’ close friendship and shared history, and reaffirm our commitments to stand together to address today’s global challenges,” Grisham said in a statement.

King Felipe and Trump met in the Oval Office in June 2018 during a royal tour of the U.S. to mark the 300th anniversaries of the founding of New Orleans and San Antonio, cities with historical ties to Spain.

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Trump, at the time, praised the “outstanding” relationship between the U.S. and Spain and cited excellent cooperation between them on trade and military defense.

“Just about everything you can have,” Trump said. “So we love Spain.”

The relationship has weathered a few bumps in the road, however. One area of cooperation has been a long-term agreement that allows the U.S. to use two military bases in Spain. But with Trump threatening Europe with tariffs, it has been suggested that Spain might eventually dangle the base deal as leverage.

Spain’s new foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, told the Spanish daily El País in an interview published Sunday that she wants “to find a meeting point and a balance in which the United States finds things it considers important and Spain too. Obviously, access to the American market for Spanish products is important.”

The interview followed a telephone conversation she had with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

González Laya has said she plans to visit the U.S. in February.

A pre-Iraq war meeting in 2003 in the Azores between President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar represented a new peak for Spain´s standing with the U.S.

But the subsequent decision by Aznar´s successor, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq after he took office in 2004 soured ties considerably.

Barack Obama’s arrival at the White House saw relations improve,and he and Zapatero were seen as good friends. The relationship has held steady with Trump first hosting former premier Mariano Rajoy in 2017 and preparing to meet new Socialist Premier Minister Pedro Sánchez.

The Trump administration’s previous state dinners were for France in April 2018 and Australia in September 2019.

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Associated Press writer Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.

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