PARIS (REUTERS) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday (April 15) said he had convinced US President Donald Trump to keep troops in Syria, as he defended joint air strikes he said were legitimate and allowed France and allies to regain credibility.
Early on Saturday (April 14), the United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what they said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7.
"Ten days ago, President Trump was saying 'the United States should withdraw from Syria'. We convinced him it was necessary to stay," Macron said in an interview broadcast by BFM TV, RMC radio and Mediapart online news.
"We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term."
The United States, Britain and France said they only hit Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and that the strikes were not aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or intervening in the civil war.
Macron said limiting the strikes to these specific targets was not necessarily Trump's initial plan.
"We also persuaded him that we needed to limit the strikes to chemical weapons (sites), after things got a little carried away over tweets," he said.
Saturday's strikes on Syria were the first major military operation since Macron's election in May last year.
He reaffirmed that there was proof of chemical attacks, adding: "We had reached a point where these strikes were necessary to give back the (international) community some credibility."
Macron said he wanted to engage in dialogue with all parties involved, including Russia, which backs Assad politically and militarily, in order to find a political solution for Syria.
There are no changes to his planned trip to Russia next month, he said.
However, he said that Russia had made itself complicit in the Syrian government's actions.
"Of course they are complicit. They have not used chlorine themselves but they have methodically built the international community's inability to act through diplomatic channels to stop the use of chemical weapons," he said of Russia.
Macron had warmer words for Turkey.
"With those strikes we have separated the Russians and the Turks on this. The Turks condemned the chemical weapons."
Macron added that the strikes on Syria had been "perfectly carried out".
"All of our missiles reached their target," he said.