CNN Exclusive: French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to Christiane Amanpour
French President Emmanuel Macron firmly rejected any military solution to the North Korea crisis and warned against scrapping the nuclear agreement with Iran in an exclusive interview with CNN on Tuesday.
Speaking to CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour shortly before his speech at the UN General Assembly, Macron warned that without the deal, Iran risked becoming a rogue nuclear state like North Korea.
“North Korea is a very good illustration of a ‘what if’ scenario regarding Iran,” Macron said, speaking in English.
“Why? Because we stopped everything with North Korea years and years ago. We stopped any monitoring, any discussions with them, and what’s the result? They will probably get a nuclear weapon. I don’t want to replicate that situation with Iran.”
On harsh rhetoric with North Korea
“My point is not to increase pressure by issuing words against words. We have to decrease tension and protect people in the region. Look at the map, if we talk of a military solution we speak about a lot of victims. Building peace is what we have to do in this region.”
On Trump’s position on climate change accord
“That’s his choice and I do respect his choice and he was elected on the basis of such a decision, but I do regret this decision and I do want to convince him to come back to this agreement because for me that’s the core agreement for climate.”
On what love means to him
“Love is part of my life and my balance. I do believe you don’t build something great and you don’t behave properly if you are not balanced as a strong couple. I’ve been with my wife for a decade now, and she is part of me.”
Amanpour airs weekdays at 2pm ET and 5pm ET on CNN International. Her interviews can also be seen on CNN.com/Amanpour.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST OF CNNI’S ‘AMANPOUR’: Mr. President, welcome to the program. You are here on your first UNGA. President Trump is also making his first address to the world. You have many areas of disagreement with the current president. Amongst them, the Iran nuclear deal, where you think that you should stay in it.
President Trump has told the U.N. in his first global speech that this is the worst deal that he’s ever seen in history and that, one way or another, they — the deal is an embarrassment to the United States. And I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.
In a sign that he’s preparing to weaken the deal, what do you take from that? Do you think he’s going to pull out? You’ve spoken to him about it.
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: I don’t know.
And I think it would be a big mistake. I think if — I don’t say that this Iran bill, this nuclear deal with Iran, is the outcome of a deal is (ph) of everything about how to deal with Iran.
If President Trump considers it’s not sufficient, I do agree with that. We have this deal. I think that the outcome of this deal is that now we have the money to reprocess with the international agency following the situation. And I think that it’s better than nothing. OK?
Why? Because if we stop with this bill, if we just stop with the nuclear agreement, so we will enter into a situation very similar to the North Korean situation before what happened this summer. So I think it would be a big mistake.
Now this deal has to be completed. And probably I will try to convince President Trump that the best way to address his concerns (INAUDIBLE) is to work into that direction. First, we have to work in order to have a monitoring process on ballistic missiles and ballistic activity of Iran. So that’s a concern. So it’s a concern for the whole region. We have to work on it and we need a new agreement.
And we can work on sanctions and agreements on this ballistic side.
And second, we have to complete the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran for the period post-2025 because this agreement just covers until 2025 the situation.
AMANPOUR: But on balance, it makes the world a safer place to have this nuclear deal?
MACRON: Definitely. You know, have today some governments not compliant with international rules and trying to get nuclear weapons that fit. That’s the situation we have with North Korea.
And that’s the situation we have with some other countries.
MACRON: The more you contain the situation, the more you monitor, the more you put international agency and you follow the situation very carefully, the more you can intervene and contain sanctions (ph). I want to follow this line.
And I think if we just stop with the deal because it was a deal negotiated by Mr. — by President Obama, I mean, it’s not a good reason to stop with the 2015 deal.
AMANPOUR: And what about President Trump at this moment, a maximum global crisis over North Korea, calling him at the U.N. “rocket man,” talking about destroying the capabilities, that very, very provocative language?
MACRON: Look, I think what we have to do and what we need is to be efficient. I think that North Korean president is probably not very sensitive to what happened to the U.N. He’s not a great client of the city and the United Nations. The guy is in his own world.
My point is not to increase pressure and words against words. What we have to do is to find the appropriate answer to decrease tension and protect people, people in the region — and I want to think of South Korean people, living in begin fighting (ph).
I want to think about —
AMANPOUR: Japanese —
MACRON: — all region and our Japanese friends — and I will see Japanese prime minister during this trip in New York. And I think the whole world, because we — I mean, we speak about a global threat today. So, for me, it’s how to decrease the tension, how to contain the North Korean situation and how to increase the pressure to de-escalate.
AMANPOUR: Do you think there’s a military solution?
I mean, sometimes the president seems to indicate that there’s a military solution to North Korea.
MACRON: Look at the map. If you think there is a military solution, you speak about a lot of victims. I do believe in militarism because I do believe in negotiation, I do believe in how to control — I do believe in building peace. And I think that what we — exactly what we have to do in this region.
AMANPOUR: The president told the United Nations in his speech that he wants a tougher, better deal. He’s very concerned also about North Korea. I spoke to the Iranian president, who says the U.S. will pay if they pull out of this deal.
What is your view on that? And what have you said to Mr. Trump? Because I know you discussed it last night.
MACRON: Sure. And I discussed successively with President Trump and President Rouhani about this issue. Plus, for our main anxiety today regarding nuclear weapon is about North Korea. And this situation is to be handled very carefully. We have to avoid military answer. We have to increase pressure on North Korea, especially coming from China and Russia because North Korea is very dependent on those two countries.
And we have to decrease the pressure and stabilize the situation. But North Korea is a very good illustration of the what-if scenario from nuclear arm deal with Iran.
Why? Because we stopped everything with North Korea years and years ago. We stopped any monitoring, any discussions with them. And what’s the result?
They will probably get a nuclear weapon.
So my position for Iran, is if President Trump wants to say, look at the situation on North Korea, I don’t want to replicate the situation with Iran.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about how you deal with President Trump because say some things in person; he says some things on Twitter. His ministers say other things.
How do you deal with the leader of the free world in this kind of situation?
Some have described it as kind of chaotic. Some say they don’t quite know who to listen to. What does President Macron use to deal with the President of the United States?
MACRON: I have very direct discussions with President Trump. I do appreciate him. We have very good personal relationship. And I have very direct discussion with him. I don’t think the fear in domestic policies and what you describe as indifferences or discrepancies between different members. For me, there is one voice.
You elected your president and this is the voice I consider and there’s a man I speak with. And it’s always the same thing. We share our views. He’s very direct. And I think he listen to what I propose.
AMANPOUR: What are the main areas of disagreement right now?
MACRON: I think the very first disagreement is very well known, is about climate. And as President Trump decided to leave Paris agreement, that’s his choice and I do respect his choice. And he was elected on the basis of such a decision.
But I do regret the decision. And I do want to convince him to come back to this agreement because, for me, that’s core agreement for climate. And I do believe that, especially after these hurricanes we just had, both in the U.S. and in France, we do see the direct consequences of CO2 emissions and all this climate change.
We have to fight against this climate change. And we need the global modernization for that. So we have a disagreement on this issue but I will keep pushing. We have direct discussion yesterday. We will implement Paris agreement on our own, at the French level but the European level as well.
We have a strong agreement with the Chinese and the other players and I think it’s very important to present this multilateral approach.
And now that’s an issue for the U.S. itself, to see what they want to do and what President Trump wants to do with climate. But we have to deal with that.
AMANPOUR: The president says this is a bad deal, we can get a better deal. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for the climate. It’s bad for the United States.
What do you say when he says that to you?
MACRON: First of all, its not bad for the climate and environment, definitely. And especially if he decides to leave, it will be worse because the U.S. is a very good contributor (ph) in terms of CO2 emission. So that’s an issue.
And if you don’t fix the situation in the U.S., you are not credible to tell the others what they have to do. And you have direct consequences of the situation.
So no, this agreement is not bad for climate. It’s wrong.
On the — on the — even the short, mid- and long run, that’s a good agreement for the U.S. and for all of us.
Why? Because it’s true that, in order to deal with climate change, you will have to change a lot of things in our economies. In my mind you will have stop certain activities regarding fossil fuels, regarding classical industrial activities because we know that they pollute a lot.
But you will create new jobs to reduce emissions. It means more innovation, more jobs in cleaner sectors.
AMANPOUR: Which brings me then to the very major philosophical point that you’re making, which is continue the historical relationship, continue multilateralism, be really part of the world.
You know, President Trump has said make America great again. He sort of kind of shifts between being part of the world and being, you know, protectionist and isolationist.
What gave you the courage to go against that trend during your election campaign?
I remember, before the election, you said, this is a great moment for France to go in the opposite direction of the prevailing trend. You know, take on anti-globalization, take on populism.
What made you do that and believe that you could win doing that?
MACRON: Because I know the outcome of this trend. It’s war. I do know the outcome of this trend. Nationalism is all about war. We experienced that 80 years ago in Europe. So at the end of the day, if you believe that there is nothing to change this trend, and we have to accept anti-globalization, anti-militarism, pro-nationalism, protectionism and so on, it’s all about, at the end of the day, it’s all about how to fight against each other. And it’s all about war.
MACRON: No, I will deliver.
Why? Because I was very clear during my campaign about the reforms. I explain these reforms. I presented this reform during weeks and weeks and I was elected under the reforms. I do believe in democracy.
And democracy is not in the street. They voted. So I’m very quiet in that. And I think that, at the very beginning of the mandate, you have the political capital. You have to use it. I don’t mind to have — to be very high in terms of popularity and so on. My country has to be reformed.
I have 10 percent unemployment rate. I have almost 25 percent of my young people being unemployed. Do you — I mean, it’s useless to have political capital and to stay in such a situation.
So I am passing reforms on labor markets, on vocational training, on education, on investment, on training in education, a series of reforms, some of them on real estate and so on because I have to deal with a lot of friends in this country, a lot of dysfunction in the situation that say France is sort of suboptimal equilibrium, I would say.
So you face in the resistance. You face unhappy people. I’m fine. I know that. And you know what, if it were so easy to deliver reforms, probably classical politicians would have been elected to do so. So it will probably last a few weeks, months, in such situation. I will progressively pass these reforms with the government. I will explain —
AMANPOUR: You mean protests will last a few weeks, months?
MACRON: This situation of reforms.
AMANPOUR: I see, OK.
MACRON: Progressive reforms. I’m certainly not in a situation to say you will have big demonstrations or not. But what I knows is that I do respect those who demonstrate but I do respect French voters and they vote for change.
And I think what’s important is to do what you announced, to do it very quietly and to explain and to explain that it’s impossible to have a fair system if you don’t implement these reforms because it’s impossible to redistribute if you don’t produce. It’s impossible to have a strong France if you don’t have a strong economy. It’s impossible to have a fair system for your middle classes if you don’t have a strong innovation in the current environment.
So I have to pass these reforms first — and bring about (ph) a complete model. But that’s not just a reform agenda. That’s a transformative national agenda because that’s a huge shift in terms of mindset, in terms of current organization.
That’s — the main difference with my predecessors is that, 20 years ago, one of my predecessors tried to pass reform with big demonstrations and was blocked. But he didn’t explain his reforms during his campaign. He was not elected on those reforms. I am.
AMANPOUR: Let me talk about Russia because that is the big elephant in the room. You said very clearly before the election, I am not Russia’s candidate.
MACRON: Yes, I confirm.
AMANPOUR: You did say that.
MACRON: I’m French candidate.
AMANPOUR: Yes, exactly. Marine Le Pen seemed to be very much in Russia’s back pocket. You took them on, head-on, when they tried to interfere in your election, when they tried to sully your reputation and the facts around yourself.
How — again, why did you decide to take that stand after you saw what happened here in the United States? Nobody stood and publicized what Russia was doing, even though it was kind of clear before the election.
And how does one deal with a revanchist Vladimir Putin?
MACRON: Look, I think Russia interfered in a lot of campaigns.
Why? Because their strategy is to promote illiberals in a lot of democracies.
That’s fair. It’s well known. But I prefer to be very clear and I made a statement loud and clear during this campaign, I had very direct discussion with Vladimir Putin about this issue.
And I was very clear with some of propagandists of the Russian situation in my country about the situation. And I have journalists that are making propaganda, which is certainly different.
Having said that, Russia is a partner. We have to work with Russia. It’s impossible to fix the Syrian situation without Russia. It’s very hard to fix the North Korean situation without Russia. And Russia has to be respected given its place, its history and our relationship.
It’s a member of the P5, so if you want to make — if you want to make this global environment functioning, you have to deal with Russia. And I think on Syria we can act together. That’s important. On Syria, if you look at the situation —
AMANPOUR: Well, the Iranians think they’ve won. They think that they’ve won and that —
MACRON: A few of them think they’ve won.
AMANPOUR: — and that Assad has won, military —
MACRON: — and the situation is that our very top priority in Syria was and still is to win again jihadists and terrorists; with a coalition and the leadership of the U.S., we will win, I do believe. So that’s very important. And that’s my first objective in Syria.
The second objective is to preserve the integrity of the country, to have a government and an inclusive political solution for Syria. I don’t believe one fact, Bashar is a solution. Bashar is to leave. And Bashar is a criminal, we know that. And he has to respond on his crimes about international courts — in front of international courts.
But what I decided to do is to discuss and negotiate with Turkey, with Russia, with Iran about the situation because, today, when you look at the Syrian situation, the unique, active process is the Astana process.
And you don’t have the U.S. around the table. You don’t have Europe around the table. You just have Turkey, Russia and Iran. That’s a huge defeat for all of us. So, this process, which is just a military de-escalation process, has to be completed by an active (ph) political process in order to build these inclusive solutions and build the conditions for future elections in Syria.
As for North Korea, we need discussion with Putin.
Why? Because he’s one of the two main players in the situation, to have enact on embargo on North Korea and push them to be more compliant with our rules and the global situation. And today, we need a Russia much more committed to the North Korean situation.
And at the end, as for the Ukrainian situation, we have this normalcy (ph) format with Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Poroshenko. And we had several discussions in this format. And I want us to progress in this direction.
So you have to discuss with Russia. I do respect Vladimir Putin as a partner but I refuse to accept any interference in our democracy because I don’t interfere in Russian elections.
AMANPOUR: I would like to ask you, if I say to you “love,” what does love mean to you?
The world is actually obsessed right now with your marriage and your relationship with your wife. Tell us about it.
MACRON: Look, it’s always hard to speak about that because it’s part of intimacy. Love is part of my life and my balance. And I do believe that you don’t build something great and you don’t behave properly if you don’t — if you are not balanced and have a strong couple.
I’ve been with my wife for a decade now. And she’s part of me. So…
AMANPOUR: Is it important for a world leader to have that part of their life?
MACRON: At least for me, it’s very important. For me, it’s very important. For my personal balance, to have somebody at home telling you the truth every day because access to truth is one of the main challenges and somebody with her deep convictions and knowing you for what you are and loving you for what you are, not for what you represent and your role or the honors and something very specific at a point of time.
So I know I chose her and we’re together for, as I told you, decades. And that’s very important to me because that’s my anchor at the end of the day.
AMANPOUR: Your anchor?
AMANPOUR: President Macron, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
MACRON: Thank you very much.