France and Germany united in criticism of Trump's immigration ban

Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP | French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault holds a joint press conference with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel in Paris on January 28, 2017.

France and Germany on Saturday criticised US President Donald Trump’s contentious decision to limit immigration and refugees from some Muslim countries, notably Syria.


Speaking at a joint press conference in Paris with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said many of Trump’s decisions worried the two US allies, including the new immigration restrictions.

Trump on Friday signed an executive order putting a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barring visitors from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen). Trump argued that the move will help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

'Firm reponse'

Shortly after the French and German foreign ministers spoke, French President François Hollande himself told reporters that Europe must form a united front and provide a "firm" response to Trump's controversial policies. Hollande was speaking of the new US president’s protectionism policies and global view, as well as the controversial new refugee ban.

The Socialist president said, "When he refuses the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we have to respond.”

Trump is due to speak on Saturday with Hollande, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin who he has repeatedly praised.

'Many worries'

“This can only worry us, but there are many subjects that worry us,” Ayrault said, adding that he would soon invite his future American counterpart Rex Tillerson to Paris to explain Europe’s interests, values and vision of the world.

“Welcoming refugees who flee war and oppression is part of our duty,” Ayrault said.

Germany has taken in more than one million refugees and migrants, mainly from the Middle East, since 2015.

Although traditionally open to asylum seekers, France has taken in far fewer refugees than Germany since the migrant crisis erupted. Some in the French government, mostly ex-premier Manuel Valls, criticised Berlin’s open-door policy, as has Trump.

“The United States is a country where Christian traditions have an important meaning. Loving your neighbour is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people,” said Germany’s Gabriel, who was on his first trip abroad since his nomination as foreign minister.

“I think that is what unites us in the West, and I think that is what we want to make clear to the Americans.”

'There was a war'

The two countries also reiterated their position on Russian sanctions, saying they could only be lifted if progress was made in the peace process for eastern Ukraine, where a pro-Russian separatist insurgency began in 2014.

They joined British Prime Minister Theresa May in cautioning Trump against premature moves on the issue.

“Let’s not forget there was a war, that Russia sought to take over parts of Ukraine,” Ayrault said.

Trump said on Friday he was in the early stages of considering whether to lift US sanctions on Russia, but insisted he wanted to follow through on his campaign pledge to pursue better relations with Russia.

The French and German ministers also said the United Nations remained the best framework to lead peace talks about Syria in the aftermath of Russian-led efforts in the Kazakh capital Astana that some diplomats say might undermine the UN process.


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