Wednesday 16 January 2019

Macron will urge Trump not to pull out of Syria

Donald Trump greets French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump greets French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters

Ben Riley-Smith Washington

Emmanuel Macron will today urge President Donald Trump to keep the United States engaged in Syria for the long run as the pair meet in the White House.

The French president is expected to warn that new terrorist threats could emerge if the US disengages from the country as it remains locked in civil war.

The White House has confirmed that a "way ahead in Syria" will be discussed in what officials predicted will be a "full and free airing of points of view" with Mr Macron.

America's Syrian policy is up in the air as Mr Trump balances his instinctive opposition to foreign intervention with a determination to police a "red line" over chemical weapons use.

Mr Trump said last month American troops would withdraw from Syria "very soon", only to be convinced by advisers to stay for the time being to defeat the last remaining Isil fighters. Just weeks later, the US president sanctioned air strikes on Syrian regime facilities alongside Britain and France to punish Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, for a chemical weapons attack.

Mr Macron, who arrived in Washington DC yesterday for a three-day state visit, was said to have played a central role in convincing Mr Trump to approve the strikes.

Mr Macron has also declared pulling out of Syria would "leave the floor to the Iranian regime" and Mr Assad, adding: "They will fuel the new terrorists."

The US president has repeatedly criticised his country's involvement in the Middle East, saying America has got "nothing" from the trillions of pounds spent in the region in the last few decades.

A decision over future Syrian engagement has become more pressing amid Russian media reports that the Kremlin is considering further arming Mr Assad's forces.

The 'Kommersant' newspaper quoted diplomatic and military sources as saying Russia was planning to give S-300 surface-to-air missiles to the Syrian government.

The move would anger Israel, which helped quash a similar move in 2013, and increase volatility in the region.

Mr Macron was given a red-carpet welcome yesterday as he arrived with his wife Brigitte, becoming the first world leader to embark on a state visit to the US under Mr Trump.

The Macrons were due to have a private dinner with the Trumps at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, America's first president.

Mr Macron will also be given a "review of the troops", mirroring a military march that Mr Trump attended during his Paris visit.

Irish Independent

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