PARIS: President Donald Trump's visit to Paris on Thursday will take him to a city he has repeatedly derided — and at the side of a French leader best known to Americans as the earnest young man with the endless handshake.
"Paris isn't Paris any longer", Trump declared in February, implying the city had been ruined by jihadi attacks. "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris", he said last month when he announced US departure from the Paris climate agreement.
“You know what? It's going to be just fine, because you have a great president. You have somebody that's going to run this country right,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about his past rhetoric regarding Paris.
But Trump isn't the only politician who can use Paris to make a symbolic point.
When Trump arrived in the French capital, he will be French president Emmanuel Macron's guest of honor, with a private tour of Napoleon's tomb, dinner at the Eiffel Tower and, to top off the Paris tourist trifecta, a seat at the tribune as American troops open the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees.
He departed White House on Wednesday evening, joined by his wife, first lady Melania Trump, and top aides, including chief of staff Reince Priebus and National Security Adviser HR McMaster.
The visit follows revelations this week that Trump's eldest son appeared to welcome Russian help in the US election. He'll likely face questions about that at a news conference with Macron.
It was Macron, who at 39 is modern France's youngest president, whose handshake with Trump left both men with white knuckles and clenched jaws. Macron later described it as "a moment of truth" between them.
Still, Macron extended an invitation to Trump to join the national day celebrations, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the US entry into World War I. And the meetings on Thursday have been billed by both governments as a time to deepen the ties that bind the U.S. and France.
"What our two countries share is stronger (than our differences), given our peoples and our histories and our values as well. So yes, there is a disagreement, like I said to President Trump, and then I said it publicly, because there is nothing to hide. That being said, it does not prevent us from cooperating in many fields", Macron said Saturday.
Thursday's talks are expected to center on fighting terrorism and defense policy, two areas where French-American cooperation has traditionally been strong.
The visit will also gauge whether Trump and Macron can find consensus on any of the critical issues on which they openly disagree. After Trump withdrew the US from the Paris climate accord, Macron, a staunch advocate of research to combat global warming, urged "all responsible citizens", including American scientists and researchers, to bring their fight against climate change to France.
Macron became France's youngest president when he won a runoff against far-right opponent Marine Le Pen in April. Despite no political experience, he pulled together an overwhelming legislative majority in France's parliament and recent polls show him with strong public popularity.
Updated Date: Jul 14, 2017 10:38 AM