Obama calls on Spain to remain “united and strong” during visit to Rota naval base

US president makes historic first visit to NATO defense shield site near Cadiz since its creation 63 years ago

Obama meets families of personnel at Rota.
Obama meets families of personnel at Rota.Susan Walsh (AP)
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Obama defiende una España “fuerte y unificada” dentro de la OTAN

Having cut short his visit to Spain due to the events in Dallas last week, President Barack Obama left out a planned trip to Seville and instead travelled to the Rota naval base in Cádiz on Sunday.

Obama is the first US president to visit Rota, where four US Navy destroyers are based, part of a NATO anti-missile shield ostensibly set up to protect against Iran, but one that has more ambitious aims given its strategic location.

Rota naval base was created as part of a deal between General Francisco Franco and US President Eisenhower in 1953

Received amid applause by US personnel and Spanish troops stationed at the base, Obama met with them and their families, and then in a speech defined Spain as “one of the biggest allies” of the United States.

“We could not ask for a better ally than Spain,” he said, adding that the United States remains committed to NATO. He also called on Spain to remain “strong and united," themes that he had outlined in an interview with EL PAÍS ahead of his Spain visit.

Obama was joined on the trip to Rota by US ambassador James Costos and his partner, Michael S. Smith, and was met by Pedro Morenés, Spain’s minister of defense.

The president highlighted the importance of Rota, which was created as part of a deal between military dictator General Francisco Franco and US President Eisenhower in 1953. “For more than 60 years Spain has welcomed many Americans to Rota,” he said, adding that the alliance between the United States and Spain was sustained by “shared values such as democracy, pluralism and a shared commitment to freedom.”

During his visit, Obama visited the USS Ross, one of the four destroyers based at Rota and then, shortly before 8pm local time, he boarded Air Force One to return to the United States, where he will visit Dallas on Tuesday.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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