France convinced Donald Trump to stay in Syria, says Emmanuel Macron

Apr 17, 2018, 14:09 IST | Agencies

Paris also warns of potential for 'humanitarian disaster' in Syria unless diplomatic solution is found

One of the sites targeted by the joint strike on Saturday. Pics/AFP
One of the sites targeted by the joint strike on Saturday. Pics/AFP

President Emmanuel Macron asserted Sunday that Paris had convinced Donald Trump to stay engaged in Syria "for the long-term", adding that French air strikes did not amount to a declaration of war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. A day after France joined the United States and Britain in launching unprecedented strikes against regime targets, Macron insisted the intervention was legitimate and urged international powers to now push for a diplomatic solution to the brutal seven-year war.

France convinced

"We have not declared war on the regime of Bashar al-Assad," the 40-year-old centrist said at the start of a combative TV interview, stretching nearly three hours, to mark almost a year in office. But, Macron again argued his first major military intervention as president was necessary to send a signal that the use of chemical weapons against civilians would not go unpunished.

Saturday's strikes targeted three alleged chemical weapons facilities in response to what the West says was a gas attack on the town of Douma that killed dozens of people."We have full international legitimacy in intervening in this case," Macron said. He said the US, France and Britain targeted "extremely precise sites of chemical weapons use" in an operation that went off "perfectly".

He further argued the operation was legitimate despite not being sanctioned by the UN, retorting that under a 2013 UN resolution Syria was supposed to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal. As for his allies, Macron suggested France played a pivotal role in changing Trump's mind on the need to stay involved in the conflict.

"Ten days ago, President Trump was saying the US had a duty to disengage from Syria," Macron said. "I assure you, we have convinced him that it is necessary to stay for the long-term," he told veteran journalists Jean-Jacques Bourdin and Edwy Plenel, charged with the two-hour grilling on BFMTV.

And, in a reference to Trump's raging on Twitter at Russia over the possibility of strikes, Macron added: "The second thing is that we have also convinced him that he must limit his strikes to chemical weapons, at a time when there was a media furore via tweet, as I'm sure you noticed."

Despite soaring tensions with Russia, Macron stressed the need to "talk to everyone" in pursuing a Syrian settlement, saying his plans to visit Moscow in May remain unchanged.

'Watchdog team blocked by Russia'
The Hague: Russia and Syria have not yet allowed a fact-finding mission from the world's chemical weapons watchdog to enter Douma to probe allegations of a gas poison attack, the British embassy said.

Britain's claims 'groundless': Russia
The Kremlin dismissed as "groundless" UK's claims that Russia and Syria have not allowed a fact-finding mission to enter Douma. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow was in favour of "an impartial investigation".

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