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Trump, In Paris, Cites Syria Cease-Fire As Benefit Of Russia Relations

  • RFE/RL

U.S. President Donald Trump has cited a cease-fire agreement in southwest Syria as a benefit of his relationship with Russia, while French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Trump would work together on postwar "road maps" for Syria and Iraq.

Trump, speaking in Paris on July 13 at a news conference with Macron, also defended his son's decision to hold a meeting with a Russian lawyer during last year's presidential campaign, saying that "most people would have taken that meeting."

The news conference came after Macron hosted Trump in the French capital for talks that the two leaders said focused on Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, the Paris climate accord, and counterterrorism.

Trump said one of the "great things" that came out of his July 7 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was that "we got a cease-fire that has lasted" for five days.

"In terms of a cease-fire in Syria, that's a very long period of time," he said. "That was a result of having communication with a country.... A lot of lives have been saved."

Macron, meanwhile, said the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a requirement to ending the crisis in the Middle East country.

"We now have a new approach on Syria.... We have one main goal, which is to eradicate terrorism," he said. "Against that background, I do not require Assad's departure. This is no longer a prerequisite to work for France to work on."

The United States originally demanded the removal of Assad before any long-term solution could be reached in Syria, although U.S. officials have subsequently softened their stance.

On Iraq, Trump said Washington and Paris would work together to defeat Islamic State (IS) militants, whom he called "enemies of humanity...to strip them of their funding, their networks, and their ideological support."

Macron said the two presidents "agreed to continue working together, in particular on the building of a road map for the postwar period" in both Iraq and Syria.

Trump and Macron were also asked about the White House decision to pull out of the Paris climate accords, which aims to slow the production of heat-trapping gases believed to be pushing up global temperatures.

Trump said the two would be discussing the accord over dinner, but was basically noncommittal about the possibility of some new agreement. However, he left open the possibility that "something could happen" during his talks.

"If it happens, that would be wonderful. And if doesn't, that will be OK, too," he said.

WATCH: Trump Defends Son's Contact With Russian Lawyer As 'Opposition Research'

Trump Jr. Defended

Trump was asked about the admission from his son, Donald Trump Jr., that he had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign after receiving an e-mail that said she was linked to the Russian government and had disparaging information on rival Hillary Clinton.

The president once again defended his son, saying: "My son is wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting."

"Nothing happened from the meeting," he added. "Zero happened from the meeting.... The press has made a big very big deal about something, really, a lot of people would do."

Responding in English when asked if Trump's stance on Russia was tough enough, Macron said he did not want to "interfere in others' domestic life."

Praising Xi, Not Liu

Both leaders had praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping, although Trump said he "could probably do a little bit more" in regard to reining in ally North Korea's nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

The remarks came just hours after reports that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo had died while still in custody following a battle with cancer after Beijing ignored international pleas to let him spend his final days free and abroad.

Neither president mentioned Liu, although separately, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, among others, mourned his passing and urged Chinese authorities to release his wife and other prisoners of conscience being held in the country.

Trump's visit is timed to mark Bastille Day, France's national holiday, and the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into the first World War as an ally of France.

Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Paris with Macron, with the two European leaders expressing the need for continental self-reliance along with cooperation with the United States.

Merkel told a news conference that Europe "must take its fate more into its own hands" on security matters but at the same time said "we need close cooperation" with the United States despite "all differences of opinions."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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