Trump fails to commit to Paris climate agreement as he concludes first overseas trip

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-fails-to-commit-to-paris-climate-agreement-as-he-concludes-first-overseas-trip/2017/05/27/e1d3ac5c-42e3-11e7-8c25-44d09ff5a4a8_story.html?utm_term=.13357daa45c1

May 27 at 12:33 PM
President Trump failed to commit to remaining within the Paris climate agreement during a two-day meeting with world leaders that ended here Saturday, but he tweeted that he was still considering it and would announce a final decision “next week.”

In a final communique, the Group of Seven industrialized countries said that the United States “is not in a position to join the consensus.” The other six members reaffirmed their commitment to swiftly implement the 2015 accord to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The G-7 summit marked the last stop of Trump’s first overseas trip as president, a grueling nine-day tour that included high-level discussions in the Middle East and with NATO, as well as a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

After leaving this picturesque town on the rugged Sicilian hillsides, Trump went by helicopter to the U.S. Naval Air Station at Sigonella on the island to board Air Force One for the flight home. He summed up his journey in a rousing campaign-style speech to assembled U.S. service members at the base, promising it would pave the way for “a lot of strength” and “a lot of peace.”

“From Saudi Arabia to Israel to NATO to the G-7, we made extraordinary gains on this historic trip to advance the security and prosperity of the United States, our friends and our allies,” Trump said. “And we paved the way for a new era of cooperation among the nations of the world to defeat the common enemy of terrorism.”

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Trump on his first overseas trip: ‘I think we hit a home run.’
President Trump spoke to U.S. troops stationed at Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy at the conclusion of his first foreign trip as president. (The Washington Post)

Trump reflected on how many places he had visited, saying, “We have been gone for close to nine days . . . and I think we hit a home run, no matter where we are.”

Earlier, in an off-camera briefing for reporters, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said of the climate discussions, “We’re all trying to get to the right place, respectful of each other.” He described a “very robust conversation . . . a lot of give and take” in discussions that included leaders from Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Italy.

Asked if Trump had given a sign of which way he was leaning on the accord, which he called a job killer and vowed to rip up during his campaign, Cohn said, “I don’t know.”

After a first round of meetings Friday, Cohn, who favors retaining the agreement, had said Trump’s position was “evolving.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who joined the briefing with Cohn, said that Trump had “delivered on all three” of his core objectives for the trip: reaffirming American global leadership and alliances, solidifying “key relationships” with world leaders, and bringing a message of tolerance and unity against terrorism to Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Both McMaster and Cohn refused to respond to questions about Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the subject of a new controversy roiling Washington after a Washington Post article revealed that he had discussed with the Russian ambassador to the United States the possibility of establishing a back-channel line of communications with Russia.

“I’m not prepared to talk about it,” McMaster said, adding that he and Cohn were prepared to speak only about Trump’s trip.

Recounting what they described as successes over the past week, they noted pledges by Arab countries — made during Trump’s first stop in Saudi Arabia — to step up their coordination in the fight against terrorism, including a renewed crackdown on militant financing and ending destructive Iranian activity in the region.

Sunni Saudi Arabia, as well as other Sunni Muslim allies, is “America’s strongest partner in the Muslim world and arguably . . . the strongest Muslim voice,” McMaster said in a comment that may roil the Shiite minority that comprises about 15 percent of Muslims.

Cohn spoke of the most “amazing deals that have really been made by an administration ever” that Trump had clinched in Riyadh, including both private-sector investments and arms sales. He put the total at “close to half a trillion” dollars, although the administration initially set it at $380 billion and did not provide details of the agreements.

McMaster called “baseless” reports that European leaders were concerned about Trump’s failure to restate the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO charter during an alliance summit in Brussels. The provision pledges all 28 NATO members to treat an attack against any of them as an attack against all.

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“He did not make a decision not to say it. It was implicit in the speech,” McMaster said of Trump’s address to the alliance, in which he recalled that Article 5 had been invoked only once, following the September 2001 terrorist attack in the United States. “It’s a matter of fact that the United States and the president stand firmly behind our Article 5 commitment,” McMaster said.

He said that “many of the allies” had privately approached him and the president to thank Trump for aggressively pressing NATO members to spend more on defense.

On the climate agreement, Cohn said that he did not know where Trump was in his thinking on the issue. “What you’re asking me to do is tell you what’s inside the president’s mind. I’m not qualified to do that,” said Cohn, who has briefed the president numerous times on the issue and attended G-7 meetings about it.

When asked why Trump had not held a news conference or spoken at any length with reporters accompanying him on his travels, Cohn said Trump had been working “nonstop.” Presidents traditionally hold news conferences when they travel overseas.

“One thing you have to admit,” he said of Trump, “since he left last Friday, he has put in 14-, 15-, 18-, 20-hour” days of work.

When it was pointed out that every other leader at the G-7 had scheduled a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting, Cohn, who was speaking in front of a television screen on which Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni was addressing the media and taking questions, Cohn said, “I’m not sure that’s true.”

Not far from the summit meeting, which was held in a historic monastery-turned-luxury hotel on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, several thousand demonstrators had assembled in the town of Giardini Naxos to march toward police barricades.

One group carried banners objecting to Europe’s treatment of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Another, calling itself “Women Against Trump,” planned to protest what marchers said was the president’s “sexism.”

By the time the protest march began weaving its way along a narrow, seaside street toward the heavily armed security presence, however, Trump had already left.

Demonstrators who had expressed concern that their ranks were infiltrated by anarchist groups scattered as some among them pushed toward the barricades and Italian police began lobbying tear gas at them.

Stefano Pitrelli in Giardini Naxos contributed to this report.

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