16 Apr 2018

France's Macron persuaded Trump over Syria troops, he says

12:37 pm on 16 April 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron says he convinced US President Donald Trump to keep troops in Syria for the long term and limit joint strikes to chemical weapons facilities.

France's President Emmanuel Macron.

France's President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP or licensors

Early on Saturday, the US, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what they said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on 7 April.

"Ten days ago, President Trump was saying 'the United States should withdraw from Syria'. We convinced him it was necessary to stay," Mr Macron said in an interview broadcast by BFM TV, RMC radio and Mediapart online news.

"We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term."

The United States, Britain and France said they only hit Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and the strikes were not aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or intervening in the civil war.

Limiting the strikes to these specific targets was not necessarily Mr Trump's initial plan, Macron said.

"We also persuaded him that we needed to limit the strikes to chemical weapons (sites), after things got a little carried away over tweets," he said.

While it is unusual for a French president to present himself as driving US policy in military matters in the Middle East, Mr Macron and Mr Trump have developed a friendly relationship over the past year.

Saturday's strikes on Syria were the first major military operation since Mr Macron's election in May last year.

"We had reached a point where these strikes were necessary to give back the (international) community some credibility," he said.

He also reaffirmed there was proof of chemical attacks.

Mr Macron added that Russia, which backs Assad politically and militarily, had made itself complicit in the Syrian government's actions.

"Of course they are complicit. They have not used chlorine themselves but they have methodically built the international community's inability to act through diplomatic channels to stop the use of chemical weapons," he said of Russia.

However, the French president said he wanted to engage in dialogue with all parties involved, including Moscow, to find a political solution for Syria. There are no changes to his planned trip to Russia next month, he said.

Macron had warmer words for Turkey.

"With those strikes we have separated the Russians and the Turks on this. The Turks condemned the chemical weapons."

Macron added that the strikes on Syria had been "perfectly carried out".

"All of our missiles reached their target," he said.

Mr Macron said France, Britain and the US had "complete international legitimacy to act."

- Reuters

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