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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Trump to travel to Paris to discuss Syria and terrorism 

US president Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron have taken very different positions in areas such as climate change and trade

French president Emmanuel Macron talks with US president Donald Trump on the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017. AP / Michael Sohn
French president Emmanuel Macron talks with US president Donald Trump on the first day of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017. AP / Michael Sohn

US president Donald Trump will travel to Paris on Wednesday to meet with French president Emmanuel Macron where the two leaders will seek to work together on Syria and countering terrorism, while avoiding the thorny issues that have divided them.

Mr Trump and Mr Macron — both political newcomers who scored upset victories in their presidential elections — have taken very different positions in areas such as climate change and trade.

US and French officials have said Mr Trump's visit to Paris will allow the leaders to focus on those places where their interests overlap, including resolving the conflict in Syria and combating global terrorism.

Mr Macron invited Mr Trump to France to celebrate July 14 Bastille Day festivities and to commemorate the 100 years since US troops entered into the First World War.

"It's for France a unique opportunity to show French military power … and that's very important for Trump," said Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, director of the Paris office of think-tank the German Marshall Fund.

Mr Trump has repeatedly hammered away at European allies in Nato for not paying their fair share on military spending.

Although France has not met Nato's target of spending two per cent of GDP on the military, Mr Trump is satisfied that the country is very close to meeting that goal, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Mr Trump will arrive in Paris early Thursday morning. He will participate in a welcoming ceremony at Les Invalides, where he will tour a French war museum and visit the tomb of Napoleon. Then Mr Trump and Mr Macron will hold a bilateral meeting followed by a news conference, the White House said.

Mr Macron and Mr Trump, along with their wives, plan to dine at a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower on Thursday night.

Trump's brief trip to France follows his attendance of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany last week. The US was left relatively isolated during the summit, when it reaffirmed Mr Trump's decision to pull out of a landmark international accord reached in Paris in 2015 to fight climate change.

In hard-fought negotiations in Germany, Mr Macron tried to soften US language on climate policy.

"They have completely contrasting messages, where Trump has argued for 'America first,' Emmanuel Macron is arguing for a kind of cosmopolitan globalist vision of France and of Europe," said Erik Jones, director of European and Eurasian Studies at Johns Hopkins University. "That is going to create very sharp contrast when the two meet in France."