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Macron hits back at MEPs criticising Syria airstrikes

By Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent, in Strasbourg
Emmanuel Macron has angrily confronted critics of last week's airstrikes in Syria - claiming France, the UK and the US "saved the honour of the international community".
During a three-hour debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the French President was challenged by MEPs opposed to the bombing raids on chemical weapons plants.Responding passionately, he insisted France, the UK and the US had not declared war on Bashar al Assad, but said Syria could not be rebuilt after its civil war "if we turn our backs".
Macron hits back at MEPs criticising Syria airstrikes

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Mr Macron said Syria could not be rebuilt after its civil war 'if we turn our backs'
When he entered the Parliament's chamber at the start of the debate, Sinn Fein MEPs led a protest against the airstrikes - shouting and displaying placards declaring "Stop the war in Syria", "Stand up for international law" and "Hands off Syria".After the President's opening speech, outlining ambitious proposals to make the EU more democratic, senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt strongly backed the military action, claiming a country that used chemical weapons was a "genocidal and illegitimate regime".But after a number of MEPs including attacked the raids, the President hit back - saying: "This intervention by France, the UK and US has nothing to do with Iraq, nothing to do with Libya."
Macron hits back at MEPs criticising Syria airstrikes

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Mr Macron said countries that believed in the force of law and what was right could not simply "cave in to the cynicism" of those that did not.He spoke of "all those who are shocked each time by images we have seen of children and women who died of a chemical attack".And he challenged his critics: "Do we sit back? Do we defend human rights by saying rights are for us, principles are for us and realities are for others?"
Macron hits back at MEPs criticising Syria airstrikes

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He said France, the UK and the US had intervened in a "legitimate, multilateral framework" and the airstrikes had specifically targeted three chemical weapons facilities "without any human life loss".
In his setpiece speech to MEPs before the clashes on Syria, Mr Macron spoke bleakly about divisions in the EU and unveiled a series of proposals for reform."There seems to be a sort of European civil war where selfish interests sometimes appear more important than what unites Europe," he said.
Macron hits back at MEPs criticising Syria airstrikes

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Mr Macron urged the European Parliament to back his calls for more democracy in the EU, including direct elections for the European Commission President and other Brussels posts.Recalling how the EU began after the Second World War, he said: "I don't want to belong to a generation of sleepwalkers that has forgotten its own past."Immediately after the French President's speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker rose to his feet and said: "Yes, yes, we agree! I fully support what the President has just said."
Macron hits back at MEPs criticising Syria airstrikes

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And after the long and at times heated debate in the Parliament chamber, the President had lunch with a number of senior MEPs, including the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.Speaking ahead of the President's appearance before MEPs, Mr Farage quipped: "I plan on ruining his lunch!"
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Mr Farage was introduced to the President at the lunch as "the enfant terrible of the European Parliament".The President replied: "I know."
news.sky.com
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