Macron, Trump patch up after EU army spat

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE -

paris — French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron sought to defuse a row with 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 less warm than dur­ing Trump’s last trip to Paris in July 2017 and Macron’s visit to the White House in April, un­der­scor­ing a gen­eral cool­ing in re­la­tions which were fur­ther strained by a late-night tweet by Trump on de­fence.

Macron at­tempted to smoothe over the di­vi­sions, say­ing he shared Trump’s view on the need for Europe to boost de­fence spend­ing.

“We need a much bet­ter bur­den­shar­ing within Nato,” he said.

De­fend­ing his call dur­ing the week for a Euro­pean army, he said: “It is un­fair to have Euro­pean se­cu­rity be­ing as­sured by the US”.

Trump, who main­tained an aloof bear­ing on ar­rival at the El­y­see Palace but was vis­i­bly more re­laxed after the talks, de­scribed him­self and Macron as “very good friends”.

“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 on Sun­day, had looked set to be tu­mul­tuous after he fired off a tweet on ar­rival in Paris late on 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 re­fer-

ral to the US along­side China and Rus­sia as na­tional se­cu­rity threats.

In a French ra­dio in­ter­view on Tues­day, 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 force was needed to end Europe’s re­liance on US mil­i­tary might.

“We have to pro­tect our­selves with re­spect to China, Rus­sia and even the United States,” he said after

list­ing var­i­ous threats in­clud­ing cy­ber­at­tacks.

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.”

A Macron ad­viser said that in his talks with Trump the French pres­i­dent em­pha­sized the need for greater Euro­pean au­ton­omy on de­fence but said it was “not to the detri­ment of the US”. The ad­viser said Trump had replied: “We are much closer than it seems.”

The pair also dis­cussed the killing of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi.

Trump and his wife Me­la­nia, who had lunch with Macron and his wife Brigitte, later can­celled a planned visit to an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ceme­tery north­east of Paris due to bad weather, leav­ing them free for the af­ter­noon.

The events cap a week packed with sym­bol­ism, 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 ad­vo­cate of open bor­ders, has re­peat­edly in­voked the war in re­cent weeks to ham­mer home his mes­sage that ris­ing na­tion­al­ism is again desta­bil­is­ing the world.


uS Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks with french pres­i­dent em­manuel macron prior to their meet­ing at the el­y­see Palace in Paris on Satur­day. —

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