Trump talks Mid­dle East with France’s Macron

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Ri­ley-smith

WASHINGTON •There­was hand-hold­ing. There were bear hugs. There were pats on the shoul­der and kisses on both cheeks.

If phys­i­cal in­ti­macy is any sign of diplo­matic close­ness, Don­ald Trump and Em­manuel Macron are in the full throws of a po­lit­i­cal bro­mance.

The new re­la­tion spe­ciale be­tween France and Amer­ica was on full dis­play on the sec­ond day of Macron’s state visit to Washington Tues­day.

“Mr. Pres­i­dent, they’re all say­ing what a great re­la­tion­ship we have and they’re ac­tu­ally cor­rect,” Trump told Macron as the cam­eras rolled. “Fi­nally, it’s not fake news.”

Macron, 31 years younger and half a foot shorter than Trump, beamed up at his coun­ter­part during many of their en­gage­ments. Trump, for his part, ap­peared un­usu­ally re­laxed.

The pair did not dis­guise their pol­icy dif­fer­ences but made much of their “spe­cial” friend­ship, not hold­ing back on the flat­tery.

“We have a very spe­cial re­la­tion­ship, in fact I’ll get that lit­tle piece of dan­druff off,” Trump joked at one point, brush­ing at the French pres­i­dent’s shoul­der. “We have to make him per­fect, he is per­fect.”

A joint press con­fer­ence fol­lowed, with the men’s wives — Me­la­nia Trump dressed all in white, with a hat and jacket from Michael Kors — watch­ing on from the front row.

But during dis­cus­sions, Trump vowed to pull U.S. troops out of Syria “rel­a­tively soon” and re­fused to waive steel tar­iffs as he de­clined to give any ma­jor con­ces­sions to Macron.

How­ever, Trump did of­fer an olive branch by ap­pear­ing to soften his tone on the Syria with­drawal, in­di­cat­ing he did not want his forces to leave un­til their mis­sion was “ac­com­plished”.

Macron has pushed Trump to keep troops in Syria to fight Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant and the pres­i­dent will face fur­ther pres­sure to do so from An­gela Merkel, the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor, who also vis­its the U.S. this week. But at a press con­fer­ence in the White House with Macron, Trump said: “We want to come home. We’ll be com­ing home. We’re go­ing to be com­ing home rel­a­tively soon.

“We fin­ished at least al­most our work and we have done a job no­body has been able to. I would love to get out, bring our in­cred­i­ble war­riors back home. They have oblit­er­ated ISIS.”

How­ever, Trump said the U.S. wanted to “leave a long and last­ing foot­print” and did not want to “give Iran open sea­son to the Mediter­ranean”. He said he wanted troops home, but “also with hav­ing ac­com­plished what we have to ac­com­plish”. Macron said he and Trump had “raised new so­lu­tions to­gether, and the Syria sit­u­a­tion should be part of this big­ger pic­ture” in the Mid­dle East. Trump ac­cepted there was a “broader pic­ture” in­volv­ing Iran, but said “in­cred­i­bly wealthy” re­gional na­tions must pay for and put troops on the ground.

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron walk to the Oval Of­fice of the White House Tues­day, a meet­ing of the lead­ers that in­cluded an odd mo­ment when Trump brushed dan­druff off Macron’s jacket.

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