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France, Mexico mend ties after diplomatic spat

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto met France's foreign minister Monday, turning the page on a diplomatic row over the arrest of a Frenchwoman who was freed this year.

Meeting in Mexico City's historic National Palace, Pena Nieto and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced the creation of a "Franco-Mexican Strategic Council" that includes ambassadors, business leaders and Mexican movie star Salma Hayek.

Pena Nieto said the council, led by former French ambassador Philippe Faure and former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda, was the product of a "political agreement" with French President Francois Hollande to "relaunch relations between France and Mexico."

Hollande is expected to visit Latin America's second biggest economy next year to mark the 50th anniversary of a visit by French president Charles de Gaulle in March 1964, Pena Nieto said.

Franco-Mexican relations went through a tense period after the 2005 arrest of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman who was sentenced to 60 years in prison over her alleged involvement with a band of kidnappers that was led by her ex-boyfriend.

Relations reached a low in February 2011, when Mexican authorities pulled out of a "Year of Mexico" cultural event in France after then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy tried to dedicate the festivities to Cassez, angering the administration of his counterpart, Felipe Calderon.

After seven years behind bars, Cassez was released and returned to France in January after the Supreme Court ruled that police had violated her rights by staging her arrest on national television.

Speaking at the foreign ministry before his meeting with Pena Nieto, Fabius focused on the role Mexico and France can play together on the world stage.

"We count on the international stage because we are pivotal countries that have always looked to unite the community of nations beyond the political, economic and religious divisions," Fabius said.

The strategic council has 27 members, including the heads of France's aerospace giant EADS, public transport operator RATP, power company GDF Suez and food group Danone. The Mexican sides includes the presidents of the Televisa broadcaster and the airlines Aeromexico and Interjet.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130715/france-mexico-mend-ties-after-diplomatic-spat