Tit-for-tat escalates as President Hollande hits back at Trump’s anti-France remarks

Stéphane de Sakutin, AFP

French President François Hollande hit back at Donald Trump with a dig about gun control Saturday, a day after the new US president attacked France’s immigration policies and Paris.


"I don't want to make a comparison, but there are no weapons circulating here, there are no people who take weapons to shoot into a crowd," the Socialist president said, in a reference to the tighter gun control measures in France than in the US.

"It is never good to show the slightest mistrust towards a friendly country. That is not what you do towards an ally and I ask the American president not to do that to France," Hollande said at the opening of the high-profile annual agricultural fair in Paris.

Hollande added that he had recently spoken to Trump on the telephone, and that the US president had then expressed his "love" for Paris and for France.

Trump: ‘Paris is no longer Paris’

The tit-for-tat row began when Trump hammered France in a speech to conservatives at a rally outside Washington on Friday.

Trump referred to a friend, "Jim", who used to be a regular visitor to Paris but who hasn't made the trip in four or five years because "Paris is no longer Paris."

"Take a look at what's happened in France. Take a look at Nice and Paris," the president said, in an apparent reference to last year's tragic Bastille Day attack in Nice and the 2015 Paris attacks.

He said Jim used to visit Paris each summer. "It was automatic ... He wouldn't miss it for anything."

"Now he doesn't even think in terms of going there. Take a look at what's happening to our world folks and we have to be smart. We have to be smart. We can't let it happen to us," Trump said.

His remarks came as he battled to defend his controversial crackdown on immigrants and criticised not only long-time allies France, but also Sweden and Germany in an address at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Hidalgo gets boost from Euro Disney

Joining Hollande in the row, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted a photo of herself alongside Mickey and Minnie Mouse, saying: "To Donald and his friend Jim, from @LaTourEiffel we celebrate the charms of #Paris with Mickey and Minnie."

In another tweet, using the hashtag #Donald&Jim, Hidalgo said American tourist visits are up 30 percent so far in 2017 on last year.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault offered his own proof that Americans like not just Paris but all of France: "3.5 million Americans visited France in 2016," he tweeted. "They will always be welcome."

Global terrorism fears

But fears linked to terror attacks have scared off some visitors to Paris over the past two years. In November 2015, 130 people were killed in Paris when gunmen and suicide bombers from the Islamic State jihadist group attacked bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France national stadium.

That attack came 10 months after two jihadist gunmen shot dead cartoonists and journalists at the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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