Doubts persist over Trump attendance at French G7 summit

President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron react during the French - USA Commemoration marking the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings on D-Day at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, 6 June 2019. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

US President Donald Trump did not confirm he would attend August’s summit of the G7 group of rich nations in southwestern France city of Biarritz when he met President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday (6 June), a French official said.

A G7 foreign ministers meeting held in Britanny earlier this year was overshadowed when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chose not to attend, underscoring how tough agreeing common ground between allies has become at the annual big power summit.

Along with the United States, France and Britain, the group includes Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada and the European Union.

Tensions between the United States and its European allies have meant that where they were once largely in accord, they now seek the lowest common denominator at international gatherings.

Macron and Trump have had a difficult relationship, at odds over the American’s unilateralist approach to trade, climate change and a nuclear deal with Iran.

On Thursday, Trump spoke of an “outstanding” relationship, while Macron described their bond as “extremely strong”.

However, when asked whether Trump had committed to attending this year’s G7 summit, a French official debriefing reporters after the meeting said that was still unclear.

“You’d have to ask him (Trump) the question. It’s important for us that he is in Biarritz and we are hopeful he’ll be there,” the official said.

In 2018, Trump threw the efforts of other leaders to show a united front into disarray by leaving early, backing out of a joint communique and criticising his Canadian host.

‘Fires of hell’

Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May joined Macron at separate ceremonies on Wednesday and Thursday along a 80km (50 mile) stretch of Normandy coastline, where more than 150,000 soldiers landed on June 6, 1944, under a hail of German fire.

“We know what we owe to you, our veterans: our freedom. On behalf of my country, I want to say ‘thank you’,” Macron told several dozen American D-Day combatants at a U.S. war cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, one of five landing spots in Normandy.

“France will never forget.”

Macron awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest award for merit, to five US veterans and embraced each man warmly.

The Normandy landings were months in the planning and were kept secret from Hitler and his forces despite a huge trans-Atlantic mobilisation of industry and manpower.

“You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live,” Trump said in his address, turning to the surviving veterans. “You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of our republic and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

“These men moved through the fires of hell,” he said. “They came here and saved freedom, and then they went home and showed us all what freedom is about.”

The commemorations come against the backdrop of two years of forthright diplomacy and “America First” policymaking by Trump and his administration that have shaken the NATO alliance and tested relations with allies including Britain and France.

On the eve of the anniversary, France’s president evoked the spirit of D-Day, saying: “These allied forces that together freed us from the German yoke, and from tyranny, are the same ones that were able to build the existing multilateral structures after World War Two.

“We must not repeat history, and remind ourselves what was built on the basis of the war,” he said.

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