World

Trump, Macron agree on European defence

By AAP Newswire

France's Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump have agreed on the need for Europe to bear more of the burden for defence, papering over an earlier Trump tweet that described Macron's call for a European army as "very insulting".

Meeting for talks at the Elysee palace ahead of commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Macron welcomed Trump with a firm handshake, but there appeared to be less immediate warmth between them than in the past.

Seated on gilded chairs, Macron placed his hand on Trump's knee and referred to him as "my friend", while Trump too sought to find common ground on an issue that has caused friction.

"We want a strong Europe, it's very important to us, and whichever way we can do it the best and more efficient would be something we both want," said Trump. "We want to help Europe but it has to be fair. Right now the burden sharing has been largely on the United States."

Macron echoed those sentiments, saying he wanted Europe to bear a greater share of the defence costs within NATO, a point he has made repeatedly since taking office, alongside calls for Europe to develop its own military capability.

"That's why I do believe my proposals for European defence are totally consistent with that," Macron said in English.

Fresh off US congressional elections that saw his Republican Party's power eroded, Trump is in Paris to bolster the US-European alliance during the Armistice commemorations.

But in a tweet prior to landing in Paris on Friday, Trump took a dim view of comments Macron made in a Europe 1 radio interview this week.

Discussing the threat from cyber-hacking and outside meddling in the electoral process, Macron said Europe needed to protect itself against China, Russia "and even the United States".

Later in the interview he spoke about the need for a European army, saying:

"Faced by Russia, which is on our borders and which has shown that it can be threatening ... we need to have a Europe that can better defend itself by itself, without depending solely on the United States."

Trump, who has pushed NATO allies to pay more for their common defence and not rely so heavily on the United States, complained.

"Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidises greatly," Trump said on Twitter.

As well as defence, Macron said he and Trump would discuss trade, Iran and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Talks may also cover European concerns about Trump's plans to withdraw the United States from the 1980s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement and US renewal of sanctions against Iran.

Macron told Europe 1 radio that the "main victim" of the US withdrawal from the INF accord was Europe and its security.

The French president, who tried but failed earlier this year to talk Trump out of withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has also voiced worries about the impact of sanctions on European companies doing business with Iran.