Macron hosts Trump amid row over Eu­ro­pean de­fence

Ap­pear­ing anx­ious to ap­pease Trump, who has ac­cused the EU of fail­ing to pull its weight on NATO spend­ing, Macron said he shared his view that ‘we need a much bet­ter bur­den­shar­ing within NATO’

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

PARIS: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron at­tempted to defuse a row with vis­it­ing US coun­ter­part Don­ald Trump on Satur­day, hail­ing the “great sol­i­dar­ity” be­tween their coun­tries af­ter Trump blasted his pro­pos­als for a Eu­ro­pean army.

The two lead­ers held talks at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Paris ahead of World War 1 com­mem­o­ra­tions tak­ing place in the shadow of a new na­tion­al­ist surge world­wide.

Their body lan­guage was markedly less warm than dur­ing Trump’s last visit to Paris in July 2017, un­der­scor­ing a gen­eral cool­ing in re­la­tions which were fur­ther strained by a late-night tweet by Trump at­tack­ing Macron.

Ap­pear­ing anx­ious to ap­pease Trump, who has ac­cused the EU of fail­ing to pull its weight on NATO spend­ing, Macron said he shared his view that “we need a much bet­ter bur­den-shar­ing within NATO”.

His calls for closer Eu­ro­pean in­te­gra­tion on de­fence would mean “more Eu­rope in NATO”, he ar­gued, later pat­ting Trump’s knee af­fec­tion­ately. Trump, who ap­peared more aloof, de­scribed him­self and Macron as “very good friends” and said he “ap­pre­ci­ated” the re­marks about bur­den shar­ing.

“We want a strong Eu­rope. It’s very im­por­tant to us to have a strong Eu­rope,” he said.

Trump’s visit, which kick­starts two days of events mark­ing the cen­te­nary of the end of World War 1, had looked set to be tu­mul­tuous af­ter he fired off a tweet on ar­rival in Paris late Fri­day ber­at­ing Macron’s calls for a Eu­ro­pean army.

“Pres­i­dent Macron of France has just sug­gested that Eu­rope build its own mil­i­tary in or­der to pro­tect it­self from the US, China and Rus­sia,” the US pres­i­dent tweeted, re­fer­ring to re­marks made by Macron three days ear­lier.

“Very in­sult­ing, but per­haps Eu­rope should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US sub­si­dizes greatly!,” he added.

Trump ap­peared par­tic­u­larly irked by the French leader’s re­fer­ral to the US along­side China and Rus­sia as na­tional se­cu­rity threats. In a Eu­rope 1 ra­dio in­ter­view, Macron had re­ferred to Trump’s plans to pull the US out of a Cold War-era nu­clear treaty and said a joint Eu­ro­pean Union mil­i­tary force was needed to wean Eu­rope off reliance on the US.

“We are be­ing hit by at­tempted break-ins in cy­berspace and in­ter­ven­tions else­where in our demo­cratic lives,” Macron said.

“We have to pro­tect our­selves with re­spect to China, Rus­sia and even the United States,” he said, call­ing Eu­rope “the prin­ci­pal vic­tim” of Trump’s de­ci­sion to aban­don the mis­sile treaty with Rus­sia.

Macron’s of­fice on Satur­day ac­knowl­edged that his re­marks “could cre­ate con­fu­sion” but stressed: “He never said we need a Eu­ro­pean army against the United States.”

Af­ter their talks Trump and Macron had lunch with their wives Me­la­nia and Brigitte. On Satur­day evening the US leader was to join Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and nearly 70 other world lead­ers at a din­ner at the Or­say Mu­seum ahead of Sun­day’s solemn com­mem­o­ra­tions at the Arc de Tri­om­phe un­der which lies the tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier.

The events cap a week packed with sym­bol­ism to re­mem­ber the si­lenc­ing of the guns, with memo­ri­als held across the world for a con­flict that claimed around 18 mil­lion lives and in­volved more than 70 cur­rent-day na­tions.

Macron, a cen­trist, has re­peat­edly in­voked the war in re­cent weeks to ham­mer home his mes­sage that ris­ing na­tion­al­ism is again desta­bil­is­ing the world.

On Satur­day he was to meet Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in the north­ern town of Com­piegne where the armistice end­ing the war was signed by the Al­lies and Ger­many in a for­est clear­ing on Novem­ber 11, 1918.

The visit is in­tended to sym­bol­ise the close ties be­tween two coun­tries that fought three wars be­tween 1870 and 1945 but are now seen as the lynch­pins of peace in West­ern Eu­rope.

The iso­la­tion­ist US leader has ducked out of a peace con­fer­ence on Sun­day, which Macron and Merkel in­tend to use as a plat­form for pro­mot­ing mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism.

Trump and Macron struck up a warm re­la­tion­ship ini­tially but have re­peat­edly clashed since over a grow­ing list of is­sues, in­clud­ing Trump pulling Amer­ica out of the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord and the Iran nu­clear deal.

The WWI com­mem­o­ra­tions come at a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for the lib­eral post-war or­der, with anti-im­mi­gra­tion pop­ulists at the helm in the US and Brazil, shar­ing power in Italy, and mak­ing strong gains in Ger­many, where Merkel has an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion in 2021. On Fri­day, Merkel met British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May near the Bel­gian bor­der to try to make progress on a Brexit deal and re­mem­ber the fallen on the bat­tle­fields of the Somme.

- AFP

EN­GROSSED: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron prior to their meet­ing at the El­y­see Palace in Paris, on Novem­ber 10, 2018, on the side­lines of com­mem­o­ra­tions mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the 11 Novem­ber 1918 armistice, end­ing World War I.

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