12:47 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Melania and I are truly honored to welcome French President Macron and Mrs. Macron to the White House. Thank you very much. It’s a great honor.
We’re thrilled that the first official state visit of my presidency is not only with a great friend, but with a leader of America’s oldest ally, the Republic of France. Today, in our nation’s capital, the Stars and Stripes proudly fly alongside the Tricolor flag, a symbol of the world, and to the world, of unity, fraternity, and friendship that forever links our nations together.
Forty years after the end of our War of Independence, the great General Lafayette traveled to George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon to visit the grave of the father of our country. President Macron, we’re deeply moved that nearly two centuries later, the President of the Republic of France made that same tribute last night. That was a beautiful evening. Thank you.
PRESIDENT MACRON: Thank you.
PRESIDENT MACRON: (As interpreted.) Thank you. Mr. President, dear Donald, thank you to you and to the First Lady for your warm welcome. Please allow me to tell you how pleased we are, together with my wife Brigitte and the whole of the French delegation — how pleased we are to be your guests for three days.
After this wonderful visit and the honor you made — you made it by attending Bastille Day in Paris. In both speeches earlier today, we referred to the deep and ancient bonds between our two countries. These go back to the founding revolution of your country, and have been true through both our histories. These bonds are based upon our deep attachment to freedom and peace. Each time they have been threatened, we stood by one another.
And we celebrated last night, before this, by going to Mount Vernon, given that nobody else could illustrate as well as George Washington the strength of the commitment and the bond between our two countries.
Mr. President, please allow me to go back to a number of issues, which are fundamental for not only our relationship, but beyond. The first topic is Iran. You said once again, in front of the press, what your position was during the campaign and as well as the President of the United States. It’s not a mystery we did not have the same starting positions or stances, and neither you nor I have a habit of changing our stances or going with the wind.
That being said, I can say that we’ve had very a frank discussion on that, just the two of us. You consider that the Iranian deal, the JCPOA — the one negotiated in 2015 with Iran — is a bad deal. For a number of months, I’ve been saying that this was not a sufficient deal, but that it enabled us, at least until 2025, to have some control over their nuclear activities.
We therefore wish, from now on, to work on a new deal with Iran. What we need — and I believe that on that, our discussions allowed us to shed light on our convergence of views — is that we need to cover four topics.
The first one is to block any nuclear activity of Iran until 2025. This was feasible thanks to the JCPOA. The second is to make sure that, in the long run, there is no nuclear Iranian activity. The third fundamental topic is to be able to put an end to the ballistic activities of Iran in the region. And the fourth one is to generate the conditions for a solution — a political solution to contain Iran in the region — in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Lebanon.
On these topics, I did not change. I constantly said that we needed to find the framework so that, together, and with the powers of the region, and with the Iranian leaders, manage to find a deal. I therefore would like us to commit to that effect in the weeks and months to come.
This is the only way to bring about stability. France is not naïve when it comes to Iran. We have also a lot of respect for the Iranian people, which, through their history — its history — has always shown its strength.
But we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. Each time we tried to unilaterally replace the sovereignty of the people, we brought about some more terror. But for our allies, we want sustainable stability. And I believe that the discussions we’ve had together make it possible to open the way, to pave the way for a new agreement, an agreement on which we will work. And beyond our European partners, we would like to involve the regional powers, and of course, Russia and Turkey.
It is also within this framework, as a matter of finding it together — together, in the long run, we can find a solution to the Syrian situation. In Syria, we are together engaged within the international coalition against Daesh and the terrorists. And we will continue to act until end, within this framework, until victory.
That being said, in the long run, we need to win peace and make sure that Syria does not fall into hegemony in the region. So that effect, the approach — which is agreed — means that we can work, and work on all of the situation — the whole of the situation — in the region, and with these efforts, to contain Iran in the region.
Q And for President Macron, the President referred earlier, in your meetings in the Cabinet Room, to a potential deal between the two of you on Iran. Can you give us a sense of what that might be? And are you confident that you will have assurances from President Trump that the European Union will be excluded from tariffs on steel and aluminum?
PRESIDENT MACRON: As for the Iranian situation, and I think I detailed in my introduction, for me, the key pillars of this new approach we want to adopt. And it’s exactly what President Trump said. We have nuclear on the short run; we have nuclear on the long run. We have ballistic activity. We have regional presence of Iran. We want to fix the situation for these four pillars.
PRESIDENT MACRON: (As interpreted.) A question from the French press.
Q (As interpreted.) A question from Agence France-Presse on behalf of the French press. As you have (inaudible), Mr. President, you were saying that there was no plan B; that the Iran deal was to be preserved. Now you’re talking about a new deal with Iran. Why did you change your mind? Did you join the strong approach suggested by President Trump? Is it because you could not convince him? And in addition, do you think the others who signed the agreement, the deal, will follow you?
PRESIDENT MACRON: (As interpreted.) When I said there was no plan B, I usually refer to the fact that there is no B planet. It was about climate rather than Iran.
Now, regarding Iran, I’ve always been coherent, and you can go back to what I said at the U.N. General Assembly in September. I always said that there was the JCPOA but we needed to add three pillars post-2025 — the ballistic issue and the regional influence. I do not know what President Trump will decide regarding the JCPOA, and it is his responsibility.
The JCPOA is the first pillar of this framework I just described. So I’m not saying that we’re moving from one deal to another. I’m saying it is one aspect of the problem. I have never been as critical of the JCPOA as President Trump has because I believe that we can usefully add to it.
But no matter the decision that President Trump will take, what I would like is to work, as from now, on a new deal with four pillars, including what is already covered by the JCPOA, that is ongoing nuclear — I mean, the current nuclear activities, the longer nuclear activities, the ballistic activities, and the regional influence
So this is constant. But over the past few weeks and in particular today, we’ve been able to go and to very much talk in details about this topic, including the situation in the region. And I believe that we’ve converged on a common reading on what is happening in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq, in particular.
And on the fact that the nuclear issue is not the only one, that indeed there is a problem with the ballistic activity of Iran and their presence in a number of countries in the region. And that our willingness was indeed to set the conditions for the stability of the region.
Once we’ve built this convergence of you, the idea of moving on to a new deal that would include the solution for Syria, I believe, is a strong step forward thanks to the discussions we’ve had today.
So I very much would like us to work together with all of our partners. And the ministers of foreign affairs already gathered the small group, and they will be doing it again anytime soon. The purpose is to have some the allied powers — and we amongst them — and of course, also the regional powers, to work at the level of this small group. We also shall have some privileged discussions with Russia and Turkey on regional topics, including Syria. So as from now, we will work using that method in favor — work towards a deal.
I believe we can both combine our common views and our differences, because we are not in a vacuum. I always said we should not tear apart the JCPOA and have nothing else. I think this would be — that would not be the good solution. But once we are placing ourselves in a momentum, the purpose of which is to put together a broad agreement covering the four topics I just mentioned, it’s very different because, first of all, we take on board the concerns and the criticism of President Trump regarding this deal, which, like I said, once again, this deal was supported by a former American administration and previous American administration.
Q (As interpreted.) Mr. President, BFM Television. President Macron, for a year now, you’ve enjoyed a very friendly relationship with President Trump. Quite unusual, compared to the previous Presidents. At the same time, we can see that you do not agree on a number of topics. There are more and more of them. We’ve seen that openly in the Oval Office earlier on Iran. It seems like the initial deal with Iran will not be able to be saved. So what about this relationship? Can it have some concrete impact on France? Can it be beneficial to France and to Europe? You talked about reciprocal interests. Is that really the case today?
PRESIDENT MACRON: (As interpreted.) Yes, definitely. I believe the reason why we enjoy this relationship is because of the relationship between our two countries. Indeed, we have a different background, but it is maybe because we both are not politicians — or typical politicians. And none of us easily change one’s mind. And I think that if you listen to this press conference and watched us, you will have the answer to your question.
Regarding Iran, we have a disagreement regarding the JCPOA, but I think we are overcoming it by deciding to work towards a deal — an overall deal that will enable us to deal with the nuclear issue but also treat it together with another three issues, which were not being dealt with so far.
So should the decision — I mean, we’ve spent more than an hour, just the two of us — and had the conclusions been that the United States of America would walk away from the JCPOA and France would not move, then our friendship would be wasted. But it is about making sure that we’re each taking into account the position and the interests of our reciprocal countries.
It is unprecedented. We’ve never before taken a joint position, a joint stance on Syria the way we did, and on Iran, in favor of a deal that will enable us to cover the four pillars. There is intense work between ourselves and our teams; otherwise we would not be in a position to do as much.
In the past, sometimes France argued that it was time to take action against chemical weapons, and it was — France was not followed by its allies, including the United States at the time. It is not what happened this time. We decided together what was possible and what was not. What was legitimate within an international framework, as two members of the Security Council, and we conducted an unprecedented military intervention at an unprecedented level of cooperation.
And please allow me to pay tribute to our troops, to our armies, and to that of the United Kingdom because we’ve led a unique operation, a proportionate one, and we were able to do so thanks to this relation that we entered.
So on Syria, Iran, the credibility of the international community against the use of chemical weapons — you’ve seen it. You have the evidence that showed that the relationship between our two countries and our friendship enable us to achieve some concrete results. And this is an improvement compared where we stood a couple of weeks ago.