Tuesday 18 September 2018

'I would love to pull US out of Syria soon,' says president

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as French President Emmanuel Macron looks on during their joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as French President Emmanuel Macron looks on during their joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Nick Allen in Washington

Donald Trump vowed to pull US troops out of Syria "relatively soon" and refused to waive steel tariffs as he declined to give any major concessions to Emmanuel Macron during the French president's state visit.

However, Mr 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".

Mr Macron has pushed Mr Trump, in public and private, to keep troops in Syria to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), and the US president will face further pressure to do so from Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who also visits Washington this week.

But at a press conference in the White House with Mr Macron, Mr 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 [Isil]."

However, Mr Trump said the US wanted to "leave a long and lasting footprint" and did 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".

US President Donald Trump and wife Melania and French President Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte prepare to have their picture taken on a visit to the estate of the first US president George Washington in Virginia. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump and wife Melania and French President Emmanuel Macron and wife Brigitte prepare to have their picture taken on a visit to the estate of the first US president George Washington in Virginia. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Mr Macron said he and Mr Trump "raised new solutions together, and the Syria situation should be part of this bigger picture" in the Middle East.

Mr Trump accepted there was a "broader picture" involving Iran, but said "incredibly wealthy" regional nations must pay for and put troops on the ground. On trade, Mr Macron has been critical of Mr Trump's protectionist policies, and has called on the US to exempt Europe from tariffs on steel and aluminium. Mr Trump gave no such concession, but Mr Macron said he was confident about the future trading relationship.

There was also no movement from Mr Trump on his decision to quit the Paris climate accord. Mr Macron said the US and France did "not always agree on the solution" and "the fate of our children is at stake".

Mr Trump told Mr Macron he would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un soon, and plans were progressing well. He added: "Kim Jong-un, he really has been very open and I think very honourable from everything we're seeing."

He said he would not accept any deal which left the North any nuclear capability.

"We have been told directly that they would like to have the meeting as soon as possible, and we think that's a great thing for the world," Mr Trump told reporters. "We're having ... very good discussions. Kim Jong-un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we're seeing."

Mr Trump has said he could meet with Mr Kim in late May or June.

The United States is pressing North Korea to denuclearise and has said it would keep up a policy of "maximum pressure" on Pyongyang to achieve that goal.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday North Korea had expressed a commitment to "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula, and North Korea said on Saturday it would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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