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All smiles in Paris as Presidents Macron and Trump agree on Syria initiative

French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump spoke of their friendly relations following talks at the Elysee Palace. Trump hinted something could happen on the US stance on the Paris climate accord.

Watch video 00:36

'Something could happen' on Paris climate agreement

The two presidents presented their countries as historical allies, and themselves as friends as they spoke to the press after talks in the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday. 

While Macron admitted differences with Trump on the Paris climate agreement, he stressed this did not prevent discussion on how best to combat a "a global threat with enemies who are trying to destabilize us."

Trump hinted there could be a move in his position on the global agreement on measures to control climate change when he said "something could happen with respect to the Paris accord," adding "we'll see what happens."

Political roadmap for Syria

The French president said his differences with Trump should not have an impact on other areas where the two countries shared "major common goals." In particular, Macron said the two men had agreed to work towards creating a political road map for Syria to follow the conflict.

"On the Iraq-Syria situation, we have agreed to continue working together, in particular on the building of a road map for the post-war period," Macron said.  "We have asked our diplomats to work in that direction, so in the next few weeks a concrete initiative can be taken and managed by the P5," referring to the US, Russia, France, the UK and China, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.  

Speaking later, Macron said his government would start increasing military spending from next year in order to reach the target of two percent of economic output by 2025. Trump had previously called on NATO allies to increase defense spending.

French defense spending would reach 34.2 billion euros ($38.98 billion) in 2018, including 650 million euros for external operations, Macron said.

President Trump and President Macron with an easy hand shake

A less-clasping handshake after the press conference

"Today we face new threats from rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran and Syria and the governments that finance and support them. We also face grave threats from terrorist organisations," Trump said, as he recalled that Friday would mark a year since the terror attack on a crowd in the city of Nice. "We renew our resolve to stand united against these enemies of humanity and to strip them of their territory, their funding, their networks and ideological support."

Asked about their relations with Russia, the two presidents said contact had been instrumental in achieving a cease fire in Syria.

Questioned on his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer ahead of last year's election, Trump downplayed it saying "nothing happened" as a result of the talks with a woman he said was a private lawyer, not a government official. 

Watch video 01:19

Trump defends son's meeting with Russian lawyer

Seeing the sights

Earlier Thursday, Trump and his wife Melania were shown some of Paris' exceptional sights, including Les Invalides where the tomb of Emperor Napoleon is housed. "Emmanuel, nice to see you. This is so beautiful," Trump said as he greeted Macron.

Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron visited Notre Dame cathedral, to the sound of music from the church organ. 

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

On Thursday evening Trump and Macron, with their wives, will have dinner at the Michelin starred Jules Verne restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Avoid isolation

Macron has repeatedly warned against isolating Trump despite his America-first policy. "We need the United States of America," Macron said in an interview published Thursday by newspaper Ouest-France. "And we have essential common ground: the fight against terrorism and the protection of our vital interests."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed these statements at a joint press conference with Macron in Paris on Thursday. Merkel and her ministers were attending the 19th joint Franco-German cabinet meeting.

Merkel said last week's G20 summit showed they shared common ground with the US on issues such as the fight against terrorism, but "we also had to name clear differences, for instance regrettably the difference on whether we need the Paris climate accord or not."

"We did not paper over these differences, but nevertheless contact, the ability to speak is of course important."

Emmanuel Macron holds a speech in Versailles

Macron was seen as anti-Trump during campaigning

Hospital visit for the First Lady

America's first lady had earlier visited the Necker Hospital where she spoke to people in French and was presented with a copy of The Little Prince, an iconic French children's novel.

Read more: Long-shot article of impeachment filed against Donald Trump

Trump attended a ceremony at the US embassy honoring American World War II veterans, as well as posting a video to his Twitter feed noting the bonds between the two countries were "forged in the fires of war."

Trump was joined at the outdoor event by three American veterans of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944, who he called "real heroes" who "fought for freedom in its hour of need."

High security for Trump

Nearly 11,000 police officers are on duty for the visit, with France still on its highest state of alert following a string of deadly terror attacks since 2015. Friday will mark a year since one of the worst incidents, when a truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice, leaving 86 people dead.

The Bastille Day celebrations in Paris will feature 63 planes, 29 helicopters, 241 horses and 3,720 soldiers.

jm/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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