France's Macron urges Trump to avoid hasty climate change decision

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron urged Donald Trump on Thursday not to take any hasty decisions on a global climate change deal that the U.S. president threatened during his election campaign to abandon.

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Macron and Trump also discussed the Syrian crisis, counter-terrorism and defense spending over lunch at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Brussels, their first meeting since Macron was elected on May 7 after a turbulent campaign.

Macron, a centrist, described their conversation as warm and pragmatic but also said it had been “extremely direct and very frank”, acknowledging there were subjects where the two leaders did not necessarily see eye-to-eye.

French diplomats had said beforehand that Macron would use the meeting to try to convince Trump to stick to a global deal to combat climate change.

Trump, who doubts climate change is human-made and made a campaign pledge to “cancel” the 2015 Paris Agreement, has postponed a planned decision on whether to stay or leave that had been due before the May 26-27 summit in Italy.

Macron said he respected Trump’s decision to put the Paris agreements under review.

“I reminded him of the importance these agreements have for us,” Macron said, adding that the pact was also important for job creation and economic development.

“My wish in any case is that there should be no hasty decision on this subject by the United States because it is our collective responsibility to retain the global nature of this pledge, which was a first,” Macron told reporters.

On the Syrian conflict, Macron said he hoped all parties to the conflict could agree to create a diplomatic roadmap to a settlement, “and I think that he (Trump) shares this view.”

A White House summary of the meeting did not mention climate change but said Trump had urged France to meet the NATO target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense and to ensure that NATO was focused on counter-terrorism. France spent about 1.8 percent of its GDP on defense in 2016, according to NATO figures.

When the two leaders met, Trump was fulsome in his congratulations on Macron’s election victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen, saying he had run “an incredible campaign and had a tremendous victory”.

“All over the world they are talking about it and we have a lot to discuss including terrorism and other things. Congratulations, great job,” Trump said.

Although the two men barely know each other but they seemed to have a hard time letting go when they first met.

Each man gripped each other’s right hand so firmly that their knuckles turned white and their jaws seemed to clench.

When NATO leaders greeted Macron at the new alliance headquarters later, Macron pointedly headed straight for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, embracing her and shaking the hand of NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg before another muscular handshake with Trump.

Writing by Michel Rose and Adrian Croft, editing by Ed Osmond and Angus MacSwan