United States (US) President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron have set out opposing views ahead of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit - Photo: White House.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – United States (US) President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron have set out opposing views ahead of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit. In an occasionally tense press conference on Tuesday (12/03), the two leaders sparred over Nato‘s role, Turkey, and Islamic State group (IS) fighters.

Ties between the two politicians were already strained amid a trade dispute, and after the French president described Nato as “brain dead” last month because he said, the US commitment to the alliance was fading. Trump hit back on Tuesday by saying the French leader had been “very disrespectful”, adding that France had “a very high unemployment rate” and “nobody needs Nato more than France”.

At a joint press conference with Macron later, Trump was less combative, stressing that the two countries had “done a lot of good things together”. Macron, meanwhile, said he stood by his comments.

The two sides then clashed over foreign IS fighters who were captured in Syria. Trump jokingly offered them to France, saying: “Would you like some nice [IS] fighters? You can take everyone you want.”

Answer that, Macron said “Let’s be serious” and that IS fighters from Europe were “a tiny minority”, and that the “number one priority” was to get rid of the terrorist group.

Trump then retorted: “This is why he is a great politician because that was one of the greater non-answers I have ever heard, and that’s OK”.

Trump also criticized Nato countries who were paying less than the Nato guidelines of at least 2 percent of GDP towards the alliance.

He said he did not want countries to be “delinquent” and pay less than their share, adding: “Maybe I’ll deal with them from a trade standpoint.”

Macron said France – which currently spends 1.84 percent of its GDP on defense – would reach the minimum, and acknowledged that the US had “overinvested” in Nato for several decades.

However, he added that there were other pressing issues to discuss. “When I look at Turkey, they now are fighting against those who fought with us shoulder to shoulder against [IS]… if we just have discussions about what we pay and we don’t have clear discussions about such a situation, we are not serious.”

The two leaders also discussed Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian S-400 missile system. Trump said they were “looking at” whether to impose sanctions, while Macron asked: “How is it possible to be a member of the alliance… and buy things from Russia?”

World leaders are in London to mark the Western military alliance’s 70th anniversary. The summit has already been marked by strained relations between Turkey and other member states. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will oppose Nato’s plan for the defense of the Baltic region if it does not back Turkey over its fight against Kurdish groups it considers terrorists.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been key allies of the US-led coalition against IS in Syria. However, Turkey views a section of the group – the YPG – as terrorists.

Ahead of his departure for London, Erdogan said Turkey would not approve a plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack unless Nato recognized the Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists.

“If our friends at Nato don’t recognize as terrorist organizations those we consider terrorist organizations, we will stand against any step that will be taken there,” he said about the plan.

However, Macron told reporters: “We don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the [Nato] table”.

In October, Turkey launched an operation in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria to create a “security zone” along its border. That military action deepened fractures between Turkey and other Nato members and took place after Trump had controversially pulled US forces out of the region.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com