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PARIS – Maintaining healthy ties with President Donald Trump is essential despite clear differences of opinion, the leaders of France and Germany said Thursday following their summit meeting.
Trump is in Paris, at President Emmanuel Macron's invitation, to mark the centennial of the arrival of U.S. troops in France in World War I at Bastille Day on Friday. The U.S. and French leaders were meeting after the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel and Macron put forth a vision of European solidarity, announcing a series of projects including a European combat plane and drones.
In answer to question at news conference closing the French-German summit, Macron noted that American troops would be marching in the Bastille Day parade and said he was surprised at any debate about Trump's presence — despite harsh differences on the Paris Climate Accord that were bared at last week's G-20 summit in Hamburg.
The United States exited the agreement.
But Merkel said that there is no getting around interdependence in the 21st century. "Europe alone cannot win the war on terrorism."
"There is no divergence between France and Germany in the manner of treating President Trump," Macron said.
"We should never forget that history is bigger than us."
Both leaders admitted some raw feelings.
"We also had to name clear differences, for instance regrettably the difference on whether we need the Paris climate accord or not," Merkel said.
She added: "We did not paper over these differences, but nevertheless contact, the ability to speak is of course important."
"We all agree that we need close cooperation on security questions with the United States of America, despite all differences of opinion," Merkel added.
Neither leader elaborated on the project for a combat plane, but Macron said that it would be used in the armies of both nations with exports coordinated.
"I confirm it is a profound revolution, but we don't fear a revolution when it is led in a peaceful way, built to last," the French president said.
The two leaders also announced the Alliance for the Sahel for security and development in countries that are a source of immigration to Europe and a nesting ground for terror groups like al-Qaida.
Merkel said that such an engagement in Africa was new for Germany. France has deep connections with some of its former colonies in Africa, and Macron recently visited Mali.
Weighty topics were mixed with games. The two leaders started their day at a children's center in Paris, meeting children from both countries.
They answered serious questions concerning integration or religion. But they also bounced balls and introduced themselves in each other's language.
Macron later announced that a bilingual program in French middle schools teaching German was being resurrected. As of next fall, there will be 50 percent more German classes in France, he said.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.