Obama, World Leaders React to 'Unthinkable Tragedy'

Published April 10, 2010

| FoxNews.com

A look at what world leaders are saying about the plane crash in which Polish President Lech Kaczynski perished Saturday:

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Statement by President Obama on the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and those traveling with him:

Today, I called Polish Prime Minister Tusk to express Michelle's and my deepest condolences to the people of Poland on the tragic deaths this morning of President Lech Kaczynski, First Lady Maria Kaczynski, and all who were traveling with them to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kaczynski family, the loved ones of those killed in this tragic plane crash, and the Polish nation.

Today’s loss is devastating to Poland, to the United States, and to the world. President Kaczynski was a distinguished statesman who played a key role in the Solidarity movement, and he was widely admired in the United States as a leader dedicated to advancing freedom and human dignity. With him were many of Poland’s most distinguished civilian and military leaders who have helped to shape Poland’s inspiring democratic transformation. We join all the people of Poland in mourning their passing.

Today, there are heavy hearts across America. The United States cherishes its deep and abiding bonds with the people of Poland. Those bonds are represented in the strength of our alliance, the friendships among our people, and the extraordinary contributions of Polish-Americans who have helped to shape our nation.

It is a testament to the strength of the Polish people that those who were lost were travelling to commemorate a devastating massacre of World War II as the leaders of a strong, vibrant, and free Poland. That strength will ensure that Poland emerges from the depths of this unthinkable tragedy, and that the legacy of the leaders who died today will be a light that continues to guide Poland – and the world – in the direction of human progress.

"I think the whole world will be saddened and in sorrow as a result of the tragic death in a plane crash of President Kaczynski and his wife Maria and the party that were with them," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. "We know the difficulties that Poland has gone through, the sacrifices that he himself made as part of the Solidarity movement. We know the contribution he made to the independence and the freedom of Poland."

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"On this difficult day the people of Russia stand with the Polish people," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel recalled her meetings with Kaczynski and said that "we always found a result in the end."

"I knew that his whole life had been dedicated to the fight for the freedom of Poland and the freedom of Europe," she said.

"We will miss Lech Kaczynski in Germany too," she said. "Germany is mourning today with the whole Polish people."

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"I think the whole world will be saddened and in sorrow as a result of the tragic death in a plane crash of President Kaczynski and his wife Maria and the party that were with them," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. "We know the difficulties that Poland has gone through, the sacrifices that he himself made as part of the Solidarity movement. We know the contribution he made to the independence and the freedom of Poland."

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a statement paid tribute to Kaczynski. "Lech Kaczynski devoted his life to his country. A tireless defender of the ideas in which he believed, he always battled with conviction for the values that founded his entry into politics: democracy, liberty and the fight against totalitarianism," Sarkozy said.

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Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said "It is a grave loss that has stricken a friendly country and in which I am sharing in with my heart."

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Kaczynski had "served his country and people with distinction and conviction, and was deservedly respected internationally. That he died en route to an event marking a new level of reconciliation between Poland and Russia is particularly poignant."

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Pope Benedict XVI said in a condolence message that he learned of the deaths with "deep pain" and that he wanted to assure the Polish people of his "spiritual closeness" in this moment.

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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said, "I have worked very closely with President Kaczynski, in a spirit of loyalty, and I respected in him a very determined Polish patriot who at the same time was very committed to our European Union and to the values of freedom and solidarity.

"The European Commission joins me in this moment in the expression of sympathy and tribute."

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Catherine Ashton, the EU's security and foreign affairs chief, spoke by telephone Saturday with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski to express her condolences.

She told him, "I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to the people of Poland and express our solidarity with you at this very difficult and sad time. In particular, I want to express my sympathies to the family and friends of those who died."

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "On behalf of all of NATO, and myself personally, I express my most profound condolences to the people of Poland, and to the families of President and Mrs Kaczynski and all those who have died in this terrible accident. This is a tragedy for them and for Poland. My thoughts are with them today."

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"Ukraine has learned about the plane crash ... with great sorrow and inexpressible pain," Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych said in a statement. "We share the deep pain of a loss that hit the friendly Polish people and mourn together with the families of the dead."

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Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that he's deeply saddened by the news of Kaczynski's death. He and former First Lady Laura Bush have fond memories of visits with Kaczynski and his wife, Bush said, and want to express their condolences to the families of all the people killed in the crash.

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"President Kaczynski, as a dedicated and honorable leader who assiduously defended the rights of his country, will without a doubt live in the hearts of all Polish people while all those who had come to know him will remember him with the utmost respect," Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias said in a letter to Poland's acting President Bronislaw Komorowski.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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