PARIS: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate were greeted by French President Francois Hollande as they began a two-day trip to Paris aimed at highlighting strong Franco-British ties despite Britain’s looming exit from the European Union.
It is William’s first official visit to Paris since his mother, Princess Diana, was killed when the limousine carrying her and her lover Dodi al-Fayed crashed in a Paris tunnel in August 1997.
A smiling William and Kate stood on either side of Hollande as he welcomed them on their first visit to the Elysee palace, where they discussed the Syrian conflict and the fight against terrorism as well as Franco-British relations, according to a French presidential source.
Noting strong links between the two countries, William told a reception later: “This partnership will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union. The depth of our friendship and the breadth of our cooperation will not change.”
After last June’s vote to leave the EU, Britain is about to embark on two years of difficult exit negotiations on whose outcome EU founder member France will have a strong influence.
William, second-in-line to the British throne, has been criticized by some British newspapers this week for going skiing and dancing with friends in the Swiss Alps, missing a service at London’s Westminster Abbey attended by other members of the royal family.
The reports revived media criticism that the prince, 34, spends too much time enjoying the high life while shirking official tasks. In an interview last year, he said he was aware of the criticism and willing to take on more royal duties.
On Saturday, the royal couple are due to meet people hurt in a truck attack that killed 86 people in Nice last July and coordinated attacks in Paris in November 2015 when 130 people died. All were claimed by the Islamic State militant group.