Turkey Accuses Macron Of ‘Sponsoring Terrorism’ In Syria

File Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Turkey on Thursday accused Emmanuel Macron of sponsoring terrorism in reaction to new criticism by the French president about Ankara’s operation in Syria.

Turkey last month launched an offensive against Kurdish-led forces in Syria, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said targeted the “terrorists” of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia and the Islamic State group.

But the move prompted criticism of Ankara that it was weakening the fight against dispersed IS elements with the operation against the YPG, which had been spearheading the fight against the jihadist group.

Macron, who has repeatedly criticised the Turkish offensive, said on Thursday that Ankara had presented its allies with a “fait accompli” that endangered the anti-IS coalition’s action.

Macron’s comments sparked a sharp reaction from Ankara, which accuses Paris of seeking to establish a Kurdish state in Syria.

“In any case, he (Macron) is sponsoring the terrorist organisation, he receives them regularly at the Elysee (presidential palace),” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by state news agency Anadolu.

Ankara views the YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdish PKK, which has fought an insurgency inside Turkey for the past 35 years and is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

“Let Macron not forget… Turkey is also a member of NATO. That it stands by its allies,” he added.

Earlier Thursday, after talks with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in Paris, a combative Macron took aim at Turkey over its unilateral decision to attack the YPG.

“I respect the security interests of our Turkish ally, which has suffered numerous attacks on its soil,” Macron said.

“But you cannot, on the one hand, say we are allies and demand solidarity in that regard and on the other hand present your allies with the fait accompli of a military operation that endangers the actions of the anti-IS coalition of which NATO is a member.”

Turkey’s Erdogan Calls Macron’s NATO Comments ‘Unacceptable’

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday slammed as “unacceptable” recent remarks on NATO by French leader Emmanuel Macron, who claimed the alliance was experiencing “brain death” and deplored Turkey’s actions in Syria.

Hosting his counterpart in the Oval Office, US President Donald Trump said Erdogan was “very disappointed in the statement made by France” regarding NATO.

“I think that bothered the president very much,” Trump said. “I think a lot of other people feel that way too.”

“Unacceptable,” added the Turkish leader, speaking through an interpreter.

In an interview earlier this month, the French president decried what he called a lack of coordination between Europe and the United States and lamented recent unilateral action in Syria by Turkey, a NATO member.

“You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies. None,” Macron told The Economist.

“You have an uncoordinated aggressive action by another NATO ally, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake,” he added.

Turkey’s latest military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria was staunchly opposed by fellow NATO members like France, but made possible by a withdrawal of US forces ordered by Trump.

In the interview, Macron asked what NATO’s mutual self-defense pact, enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty, might mean in the future, and pondered whether it could be invoked if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces retaliate against Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.

Macron also said that while “it’s not in our interest” to expel Turkey from the alliance — as has been urged by some politicians — members states should “reconsider what NATO is.”

Moscow Hails Macron For Calling NATO Brain Dead

FILE PHOTO OF PRESIDENT MACRON/ FRANCE TELEVISIONS / AFP

 

NATO partners argued Thursday over the alliance’s worth after French President Emmanuel Macron said it was undergoing “brain death”, prompting a fierce defence of the bloc from Germany, Canada and the US while drawing praise from non-member Russia.

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron told The Economist magazine in an interview published Thursday, ahead of a NATO summit next month.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 70-year-old military alliance as “indispensable” and said Macron’s “sweeping judgements” were not “necessary”.

Addressing journalists by Merkel’s side, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that a weakened transatlantic alliance could “divide Europe”, while the US Secretary of State, also in Germany, insisted NATO was “important, critical.”

In the interview, Macron decried a lack of coordination between Europe and the US and lamented recent unilateral action in Syria by Turkey, a key member of the 70-year-old military alliance.

“You have no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies. None,” he said.

“You have an uncoordinated aggressive action by another NATO ally, Turkey, in an area where our interests are at stake,” Macron added according to an English transcript released by The Economist.

After talks with Stoltenberg in Berlin, Merkel said Macron “used drastic words, that is not my view of cooperation in NATO”.

She added: “I don’t think that such sweeping judgements are necessary, even if we have problems and need to pull together”, while insisting that “the transatlantic partnership is indispensable for us”.
We have a problem’ –
Stoltenberg said any attempt to distance Europe from North America “risks not only to weaken the Alliance, the transatlantic bond, but also to divide Europe”.

In a recent setback for the alliance, a Turkish military operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria was staunchly opposed by fellow members like France, but made possible by a withdrawal of US forces ordered by President Donald Trump.

For Macron, “strategically and politically, we need to recognise that we have a problem”.

“We should reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States,” he warned, adding that: “In my opinion, Europe has the capacity to defend itself.”

Stoltenberg said he welcomed efforts to strengthen European defence, “but European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity. We need to stand together.”

Pompeo, on a visit to the German city of Leipzig as part of anniversary events for the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, agreed.

“I think NATO remains an important, critical, perhaps historically one of the most critical strategic partnerships in all of recorded history,” he told journalists.

In Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters the alliance continues to play “an extremely important role in not just the North Atlantic but in the world.”

Macron, Merkel Call For End To Turkish Offensive In Syria

 

The leaders of France and Germany called Sunday for an end to Turkey’s offensive against Kurds in northern Syria, warning of dire humanitarian consequences and a boost for the Islamic State group.

Emmanuel Macron hosted Angela Merkel in Paris for a working dinner amid turmoil stirred up by Ankara’s attack and Britain’s pending exit from the European Union, both issues on the leaders’ agenda.

Macron told reporters the pair had spoken separately Sunday with US President Donald Trump and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan to deliver a single, clear message: “Our common wish is that the offensive must cease.”

“Our conviction… is that this offensive risks, and we see it already on the ground, to create unbearable humanitarian situations on one hand and on the other help IS re-emerge in the region,” he said at a joint press conference with the chancellor.

Merkel said she had spoken to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for an hour and told him: “We must put an end to this Turkish invasion.

“There are humanitarian reasons for this,” she said, adding: “We can no longer accept this situation against the Kurds. Another solution must absolutely be found.”

Fighting has engulfed northern Syria since Wednesday when Ankara launched a long-threatened offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which it considers “terrorists” linked to insurgents in Turkey.

Trump has been accused of abandoning a loyal ally in the fight against IS after ordering American troops to pull back from the border region.

At least 60 civilians have been killed in raids by Turkey and its proxies — Syrian ex-rebels, according to observers.

The UN says the violence has forced 130,000 people to flee their homes.

Arms Sales Stopped

France and Germany on Saturday suspended weapons exports to Turkey, amid international condemnation that had already seen Finland, Norway and The Netherlands stopping arms sales to Ankara.

A meeting in Luxembourg Monday of the European Union’s foreign affairs committee will discuss a coordinated European approach to the issue.

Macron has also called a French defence council meeting, involving Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the ministers of justice, foreign affairs, defence and the interior, for Sunday night.

The French president called for a stronger, more unified Europe in what he described as “difficult and sometimes worrying” times for the continent and the world.

One reason for this is Brexit — Britain’s exit from the European Union by a 31 October deadline with so far no “divorce deal” in place.

“We are about to lose a member and we will see how the discussions, which have advanced this weekend, will be finalised,” said Macron.

“In this context, it is very clear to me that we can allow ourselves neither division nor self-deception nor weakness.”

Rebuff

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday played down hopes of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an exit deal with Europe.

On Monday, Macron will host European Council President Donald Tusk for a working lunch at the Elysee presidential residence, before heading to Toulouse in the south of France to lead a French-German ministers meeting with Merkel on issues of defence, security, and climate change.

On Wednesday evening, they will meet the EU’s incoming president Ursula von der Leyen, followed on Thursday and Friday by an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.

One issue likely to come up is the rejection by European MEPs of Sylvie Goulard, Macron’s chosen candidate for the European Commission portfolio of industrial policy, defence spending, high-tech and space — a rebuff considered a major political blow to the French president.

“I believe very deeply that in this moment in particular, Europe cannot allow itself the luxury of vengeance, of small disputes, or to add internal crises to the tensions of the world already affecting us,” he said Sunday.

“Our strength is in our unity.”

Iran Foreign Minister Makes Surprise Visit To G7 Summit

 

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew into Biarritz in southwestern France for the G7 summit on Sunday in a surprise attempt to break a diplomatic deadlock over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.

Zarif’s presence had not been announced and represented a gamble by French host Emmanuel Macron who is seeking to soothe spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States.

The Iranian top diplomat did not hold talks with US President Donald Trump in the French surf town, French diplomats said, but the presence of the two men in the same place sparked hopes of a detente.

“Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying,” the US-educated Zarif wrote on Twitter after meeting Macron and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as well as British and German officials.

French officials said Trump had been aware of the arrival and suggested that it had been discussed during an impromptu two-hour lunch with Macron on a hotel terrace on Saturday.

“We work with full transparency with the Americans,” one diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Robert Malley, head of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said that it was a sign that Trump had given “some positive response” to Macron’s proposals for a deal.

“Maybe President Trump told President Macron privately that he was open to some of these ideas,” he told AFP.

“The big caveat, the elephant in the room, is that there is considerable room between what President Trump says and what he thinks one day, and what he says and thinks the next,” he added.

Also speaking in Biarritz, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump had in the past said that if Iran “wants to sit down and negotiate he will not set preconditions.”

French officials said the discussions had been “positive” and Zarif left the beach-side gathering in the evening.

– ‘Moving in right direction’ –
Macron had held talks with Zarif in Paris on the eve of the G7 summit and has been leading efforts to bring Tehran and Washington back to the negotiating table.

Trump’s policy of applying “maximum pressure” on Tehran via crippling sanctions has been criticised by European powers and is seen as raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

At the end of July, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on Zarif, saying he “spreads the regime’s propaganda and disinformation.”

Macron has urged the US administration to offer some sort of relief to Iran, such as lifting sanctions on oil sales to China and India, or a new credit line to enable exports.

In return, Iran would return to complying with a landmark 2015 deal limiting its nuclear programme, which Trump unilaterally pulled out from last year, Malley explained.

“I suspect that they (the French) are as cautious as I am,” Malley added.

Speaking to AFP last week, Zarif said that Macron’s suggestions were “moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet.”

Zarif was a key architect of the 2015 nuclear deal reached between Iran, the United States, European powers, Russia and China.

– Trade war doubts? –
The G7 leaders, spouses and other invitees from South America and Africa wrapped up their long day with a group photo on a stage overlooking the Biarritz beach, with the city’s tall lighthouse in the background.

They were all smiles and Trump proclaimed that the G7 summit had been going “beautifully.”

However, there was no masking over cracks between the US president and his allies on many issues.

Leaders of the G7 countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — put on a united front as they spent a second day in the high-end French surfing town of Biarritz.

Trump arrived in Biarritz fresh from having drastically upped the ante in the trade war with China.

European leaders lined up to press for caution and on Sunday Trump gave a glimmer of hope that he was reconsidering his all-or-nothing approach to the dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.

Asked whether he was having second thoughts about the trade war, Trump, in a rare moment of public self-doubt, replied: “I have second thoughts about everything.”

Then in an extraordinary turnaround, Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said just hours later that the president had been misunderstood.

He did have regrets, she said, but not what everyone thought.

“He regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” she explained.

At a breakfast meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the latest of the G7 partners to urge Trump to step back from a trade war that critics fear could tip the world economy into recession.

“Just to register a faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war — we are in favour of trade peace on the whole,” Johnson told Trump.

The meeting with Johnson, who is sometimes seen as a British version of the populist, nationalist Trump, underlined the White House’s dislike for the powerful European Union.

Trump predicted that Johnson would manage to untangle the mess of Brexit and described the EU as “an anchor around their ankle.”

The 73-year-old US leader then promised Johnson a “very big trade deal, bigger than we’ve ever had.”

Macron Presses Putin For Ukraine Progress Ahead Of G7

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday hosts Vladimir Putin for a rare bilateral visit by the Russian strongman to a major EU power, seeking to press the Kremlin to help end the conflict in Ukraine.

The relationship between a youthful French leader who regards himself as a champion of European liberalism and Putin, in power for two decades, has been marked by wariness and tensions.

But Paris is keen to keep relations alive, even at a time of intense strain between Russia and the West, with the French presidency emphasising the importance of finding common ground on shared interests.

READ ALSO: Bangladesh Ready To Repatriate 3,500 Rohingya Refugees To Myanmar

Macron will meet Putin at his summer retreat of the Bregancon fortress on France’s Mediterranean coast in the early evening, just days before he hosts world leaders including US President Donald Trump for the August 24-26 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Biarritz.

The high-walled medieval fortress will provide a grand venue for talks that will seek to ease the tensions marking the complex bilateral relationship between Paris and Moscow.

Macron hosted Putin shortly after coming to office in 2017 in near imperial style at the palace of Versailles outside Paris.

But the press conference at that event was marked by an iciness with the French president in front of an impassive Putin accusing Russian state media of broadcasting “lying propaganda”.

– ‘Room for manoeuvre’ –
Russia was slung out of what was the G8 in 2014 after it seized Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, an annexation the international community deems illegal.

It sparked a war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists which has so far claimed more than 13,000 people.

Macron has taken a keen interest in brokering an end to the conflict and believes that the arrival in power of new Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky could give a new impulse to halting the fighting.

Zelensky has offered to meet Putin for face-to-face talks and spoken to him by phone in recent weeks.

“President Zelensky has made offers to which — it seems to us — President Putin should respond in an encouraging way,” said a French official, who asked not to be named.

“The election of President Zelensky gives us some room for manoeuvre,” the official added.

Brokering peace in eastern Ukraine would be a major feather in the cap for Macron, who since coming to office in 2017 has sought to magnify France’s international role.

Kremlin advisor Yuri Ushakov said that the dialogue between France and Russia had “intensified” in recent months and that Putin’s visit was the “logical continuation” of his regular contact with Macron

Alexander Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Macron would be looking for ways to resuscitate the 2015 Minsk ceasefire deal which Paris and Berlin helped broker.

“The main public issue will be reviving the Minsk accords,” Baunov told AFP.

– ‘Very useful chance’ –
Iran will also feature high on the agenda, with Paris keen for Moscow to use its close ties with Tehran to prevent a further escalation of conflicts in the Middle East.

Tensions have shot up since Washington’s unilateral pullout from a 2015 deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Macron is expected to press Putin to use his influence with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop an offensive in the northern region of Idlib and ward off new refugee flows towards Turkey.

A source of tension could come from the domestic situation in Russia, with France repeatedly rebuking Moscow over its crackdown on protesters who are angered by a refusal to register opposition candidates for elections later this year.

In a possible gesture of goodwill by the Russian authorities, French banker Philippe Delpal, who had spent the last six months behind bars in Russia on fraud charges, was released into house arrest on Thursday.

Former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine told the Figaro daily that Putin’s visit marked a “very useful chance to move France and, if possible Europe, out of the impasse” in their relations.

 

Macron Pushes Libya Ceasefire With Egypt Leader

 

France’s President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday about the situation in Libya calling for a ceasefire “very soon” between the warring sides, the French presidency said.

Macron and Sisi discussed Libya “with the aim of backing the United Nations’ plan for a ceasefire very soon and a renewed dialogue” between Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and strongman Khalifa Haftar, the presidency said.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame has proposed a ceasefire for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts around August 11, and has called for relaunching negotiations.

Nearly 1,100 people have been reported killed since Haftar, based in eastern Libya, launched an offensive against the capital Tripoli on April 4.

Paris has been seeking to position itself as a mediator in the Libyan crisis, fearing its destabilising effects on the Sahel region of Africa.

Egypt, a key backer of Haftar, is concerned about the conflict as it has a long border with Libya.

The European Union on Friday also called for Libya’s warring sides to establish a permanent truce and return to UN-led talks to prepare for quick elections

Macron, Other Leaders Attend Funeral Of Tunisian President

This picture taken on July 27, 2019 shows a view of the funerary procession of late Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi at the presidential palace in the capital’s eastern suburb of Carthage/AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron and other foreign leaders attended Friday the funeral of Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi as the North African nation gears up for snap elections as early as September to defend the democratic gains of the Arab Spring.

Essebsi, the country’s first head of state elected in nationwide polls, died Thursday at the age of 92, triggering fears of political unrest in a country seen as a rare success story following the Arab Spring uprisings.

Thousands of mourners lined the 20-kilometre (12-mile) road from the presidential palace in Carthage, where the body was laid in state, to the Djellaz cemetery in southern Tunis where Essebsi was to be buried.

READ ALSO: Tunisia Mourns, Advances Polls After Death Of President

Officers in full uniform carried the coffin draped in the Tunisian flag into a ceremonial room at the Carthage palace packed with dignitaries, placing it on a dais.

Parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur, who was sworn in as interim president hours after Essebsi’s death, paid tribute to the late leader describing him as “the architect of national reconciliation”.

“He was determined to successfully achieve democratic transition,” in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Essebsi’s widow and tearful family members were flanked by Macron, Spain’s King Felipe VI, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and other regional leaders.

Macron hailed a leader who “in these times of threatening obscurantism… was keen on keeping Tunisia enlightened, tolerant and committed to univeral values.”

Large crowds of Tunisians packed the cemetery for the final farewell to Essebsi, whose death coincided with the 62nd anniversary of the proclamation of a republic in the North African country.

“President Beji Caid Essebsi belongs to the Tunisian people and each Tunisian has the right to attend his funeral,” the late leader’s son Hafedh Essebsi said in a Facebook message on Friday.

The interior ministry said it was deploying a large number of security forces to guarantee a smooth ceremony, adding however that it would respect “spontaneous gatherings by citizens”.

– Power struggle –
Essebsi is the first president to receive a state funeral since Tunisia gained its independence from France in 1956 and the government has declared seven days of mourning.

The country’s first president Habib Bourguiba was buried in a hasty ceremony in 2000 during the reign of his successor, the now ousted autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Following Ben Ali’s departure, Essebsi founded the secularist Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunis) party, which he led to victory at the polls in 2014.

The party formed a coalition with the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, which lasted four years before the two parties split.

Essebsi’s death comes amid a power struggle between Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and the president’s son, that has led to the premier being sidelined from Nidaa Tounes to form his own rival party, Tahia Tounes.

It also comes amid a debate over who will be able to stand in the presidential election which the electoral commission said could “probably” be held on September 15, two month earlier than planned.

Under the constitution the interim president has 90 days to organise elections.

– ‘Peaceful transfer of power’ –
Essebsi, whose health deteriorated in the past few weeks, has left behind unfinished business.

Top of the list is a constitutional court that has yet to be set up eight years after the Arab Spring, and an unprecedented bill which if passed by parliament would have given women equal inheritance rights as men.

He has also neither rejected nor enacted an amended electoral code passed by parliament in June that would bar the way for several presidential candidates, including media magnate Nabil Karaoui.

Despite the uncertainty, Chahed hailed a “peaceful transfer of power”, while interim leader Ennaceur vowed that “the state will continue to function”.

Tunisia’s Arab Spring saw a series of democratic reforms even as the North African country battled political unrest, a sluggish economy and jihadist attacks, which exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector.

France’s Macron Announces Creation Of New Space Force Command

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the residence of French Defense Ministry on the eve of Bastille Day, on July 13, 2019, in Paris. Kamil Zihnioglu / POOL / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday announced the creation of a new national military space force command that will eventually be part of his country’s air force.

The declaration — made on the eve of France’s Bastille Day national celebrations that feature a military parade down Paris’s Champs-Elysees — mirrors an initiative in the US championed by President Donald Trump.

“To assure the development and the reinforcement of our capacities in space, a high command for space will be created in September,” Macron told military brass gathered for a traditional pre-Bastille Day reception.

He called the renewed military focus on space a “true national security issue”.

Last year Macron had spoken of the need for a strategy for space defence and this was the result, he said.

“The new spatial and military doctrine that has been proposed to me by the (defence) ministry, which I have approved, will allow us to ensure our defence of space…,” added.

“We will reinforce our knowledge of the situation in space, we will better protect our satellites, including in an active manner,” he said.

Defence Minister Florence Parly would reveal details of the funding at a later date, he added.

International space race

France’s declared interest in boosting its military readiness in space follows increased spending and interest in the area by the United States, China and Russia.

Observers see military activities — including spy satellites, location tracing and jamming, communications and cyber attacks — increasingly being set up in orbit around Earth.

France has a 2019-2025 military spending plan that allocates 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) to defence in space.

That includes the renewal of the France’s CSO observation and Syracuse communication satellites, the launch of three CERES electromagnetic-monitoring satellites, and the modernisation of a spatial radar surveillance system called GRAVES.

The Pentagon has drafted plans for a new Space Force on orders from Trump who has declared space a “war-fighting domain”. But that project still requires the approval of the US Congress.

In March, United Nations-backed talks in Geneva to prevent an arms race in outer space ended without agreement.

Parly announced research into the new generation of military satellites at the Paris Air Show last month.

French operations could no longer do without a presence in space “to contribute to our autonomy of evaluation, decision and action in a decisive manner,” she said.

AFP

Macron Urges ‘Rapid Clarification’ On Brexit As May Steps Down

FILE PHOTO OF PRESIDENT MACRON/ FRANCE TELEVISIONS / AFP

 

President Emmanuel Macron wants to see a “rapid clarification” over Britain’s departure from the European Union after Prime Minister Theresa May announced she would step down next month, the French presidency said Friday.

Macron hailed May for “courageous work” in seeking to implement Brexit in the interests of her country while showing respect for Britain’s European partners, the Elysee said in a statement.

But it added: “The principles of the EU will continue to apply, with the priority on the smooth functioning of the EU, and this requires a rapid clarification.”

READ ALSO: Theresa May: Britain’s Outgoing PM In Dates

Macron has taken a hard line on Brexit over the last months which has sometimes put him at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has pushed for a more flexible stance.

Paris fears that repeated delays to Brexit — which is now scheduled to take place by October 31 — are interfering with the smooth running of the EU and Macron’s own plans for reforming the bloc.

The statement said that while France was ready to work with Britain’s new prime minister, “it is too early to speculate over the consequences of this decision” by May to step down.

May said she would quit as Conservative Party leader on June 7 and would remain as prime minister in a caretaker role until a replacement is elected by the party.

The leader of the party automatically becomes prime minister. Her plan to leave the European Union with a deal she thrashed out with Brussels had been repeatedly rejected by parliament.

A crowded field is expected to contest for the leadership, with hardline Brexit supporter and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson making no secret of his ambitions.

The Elysee warned: “At a time of an important choice, votes of rejection that do not offer an alternative project will lead to an impasse.”

Johnson has repeatedly said Britain should not fear a so-called no-deal Brexit.

AFP

Macron Pledges To ‘Significantly’ Cut Income Taxes

Macron Signs Controversial French 'Anti-Rioters' Bill Into Law
France’s President Emmanuel Macron  / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised to “significantly” reduce income tax for workers in France while defending his controversial decision to scrap a wealth tax early in his term.

“I want cuts for people who work by significantly reducing income taxes,” Macron said during a speech in which he is laying out his response to five months of anti-government protests.

“I have asked the government to implement this tax cut by financing it through the elimination of some tax breaks available for companies, by the need to work longer, and reductions in our public spending,” Macron added.

READ ALSO: Former US VP, Joe Biden Announces Interest To Run For White House In 2020

Macron said he was aware of complaints about his decision to reform a special tax on the earnings of millionaires in the months following his election in May 2017.

He said it would be reviewed in 2020 and sought to justify it, saying it was designed to stimulate investment in the French economy.

He also stressed that part of the tax — on the property of high-earners — had been retained.

“It was a reform to stimulate production, not a present for the rich,” he said.

Trump Expresses Notre Dame ‘Condolences’ To Macron

US President Donald Trump 
Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

President Donald Trump on Tuesday relayed Americans’ “condolences” to French President Emmanuel Macron over the fire at Notre-Dame cathedral, the White House said.

“We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization. Vive la France!” Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Sanders called Notre Dame, which was heavily damaged in the blaze, an “iconic structure” that “has served as a spiritual home for almost a millennium.”

The statement called France the oldest US ally and said “we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again.”

READ ALSO: Macron To Address Nation On Notre-Dame Fire

The White House’s measured words contrasted with Trump’s shocked, off-the-cuff reaction on Monday, when he asked whether the French fire services shouldn’t be bringing water tankers to try and extinguish the blaze from the air.

“Must act quickly!” he tweeted as French firefighters scrambled to try and control the inferno.

French authorities pointedly responded in a tweet written in English that “all means are being used, except for water-bombing aircraft,” because the force of falling water could destroy the ancient building.

Later, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Bernier, a fire chief who speaks for the national civil defense organization, reacted in less diplomatic fashion, calling Trump’s suggestion “risible”.