(CNSNews.com) – President Donald Trump asked French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday whether he’d be willing to take back ISIS foreign fighters that Turkey inherited when it took over Kurdish territory in Syria.
During a joint meeting with Macron at the NATO summit in London, Trump was asked whether France has committed to step up when it comes to taking back foreign fighters in Syria.
“I haven't asked the president today. I have over the period of time. We have a tremendous amount of captured fighters, ISIS fighters over in Syria, and they are all under lock and key, but many are from France, many from Germany and U.K. They’re mostly from Europe, and some of the countries are agreeing. I have not spoken to the president about that,” Trump said.
Then the president turned to Macron and asked: “Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you. You can take every one you want.”
“Let’s be serious. A very large number of fighters you have on the ground are ISIS fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq and the region. It is true that you have foreign fighters coming from Europe, but that's not the only problem we have in the region. Number one priority, because it’s not finished, it is to get rid of ISIS and these terrorist groups. This is our number one priority. And it is not done, I'm sorry to say that,” Macron said.
“You still have fighters in this region in Syria and now in Iraq and more and more. And the whole destabilization of the region makes the situation more difficult to fix the situation against ISIS,” the French president said.
Macron said the first objective is to finish the “work against ISIS” and that the foreign fighters are not the number one problem.
“We will have a case-by-case approach. We have a humanitarian approach for children … and we will have a case-by-case approach, but for me the first objective in the region is to finish work against ISIS, and don't make any mistakes. Your number one problem are not the foreign fighters, this is the ISIS fighters in the region, and you have more and more of these fighters due to the situation today,” he said.
“This is why he’s a great politician, ‘cause that was one of the greatest non-answers I've ever heard and that's okay,” Trump said.
“Because sometimes you can have some temptation from the U.S. side. I don’t say President Trump, but it could be the press to say this is European responsibility, we have some of our people but if you don't look at the reality of the situations that is number one, not to be ambiguous with this group, this is why we started to discuss about our relationship with Turkey, but I think any ambiguity with Turkey vis a vis these groups is detrimental to everybody for the situation on the ground,” Macron said.
Trump admitted that France has “taken back some fighters, but we have a lot of fighters.”
“France has actually taken back some fighters, but we have a lot of fighters. We’ve captured a lot of people, and we have captured 100% of the caliphate, but you know that that means that it’s still going and going. We sent a small contingent in, and we wiped out another portion of ISIS,” he said.
“We don't want to happen to me what happened with President Obama where it reformed and then it became stronger than it was in the first place. So we don't want that to happen, and as I said before we've taken the oil. We have the oil,” Trump said.
“So we have total control of the oil so that they aren't going to be able to use it. They use that oil to really fuel up their wealth, to fuel up their money. That was their primary source of income and they get contributions that we have now lists of where these contributions come from, which is very important,” the president said.
“You have people contributing if you can believe it. Some are wealthy people that make contributions, and we have lists. We learned a lot. When we got Al Baghdadi, that was a great get, and when we killed him, we have a lot of information that I'm revealing now for the first time, but we also got a lot of good information. So a lot of things are happening and France has been very helpful, I have to say that. They've been very, very helpful,” Trump added.
Prior to their meeting, the president criticized Macron for comments he made about Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, prompting Turkey – a NATO member - to invade northern Syria.
"What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO," Macron said in an interview with The Economist , adding that the U.S. appears to be "turning its back on us."
"So as soon as you have a member who feels they have a right to head off on their own, granted by the United States of America, they do it," Macron said. "And that's what happened."
Trump called Macron’s comments “very insulting” hours earlier during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
When asked what he thought about Macron’s criticism that NATO is “brain dead,” Trump said, “I know, and then, Turkey responded by saying that he was brain dead, which was interesting. Now, NATO serves a great purpose. It got to be unfair for the United States because the United States was paying a disproportionate amount, and I heard that President Macron said NATO is ‘brain dead.’”
“I think that’s very insulting to a lot of different forces, including the man that does a very good job in running NATO. No, it has a great purpose, especially with the fact that NATO is becoming much more flexible, in terms of what it looks at, but I was very surprised,” the president said.
Trump asked Stoltenberg what he thought of Macron’s comments, to which the NATO secretary general said, “That’s not the case because, actually, NATO is active. NATO is agile. NATO is adapting, and we have just implemented the largest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War, with high readiness of troops.
“For the first time in our history, we have combat-ready troops in the eastern part of the alliance. European allies and Canada are investing more also in high-end capabilities, and we are stepping up the fight against terrorism. And we are, as an alliance, for the first time also addressing the security implications of the rise of China. So the reality is that this alliance has proven, once again, to be able to adapt, to change, responding to a changing world. So that’s the reason why we are a success: the ability to change when the world is changing,” Stoltenberg said.