Newcomer Macron makes France’s mark, with Trump and globally

TAORMINA, Italy (AP) — Within days of taking the French presidency, Emmanuel Macron faced a string of diplomatic tests — pushing the Paris climate deal on a skeptical Donald Trump, rallying European allies to do more to fight Syria’s extremists, and now hosting Vladimir Putin.

Europe has a lot riding on Macron’s diplomatic performance. So far, it appears, so good.

Macron struck up an unusually chummy rapport in his first meetings with Trump, winning a handshake contest and the U.S. leader’s cellphone number, despite their stark political differences.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, too, is warming to the energetic Macron — they’ve already met three times in the two weeks since Macron took office — and is pinning hopes on him to boost Europe’s economy and unity.

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Macron is eager to dispel doubts about his presidential stature that have dogged him since he launched a wild-card presidential bid just six months ago.

During his very first days in office, he visited Berlin and a French military base in Mali, where the country’s troops are fighting Islamic extremism. Then over this past week, he cemented his status as a new global player at a NATO summit in Brussels and a Group of Seven summit in Italy.

While he has never held elected office before, Macron was helped by his comfortable English and backstage knowledge of international summits gained as top economic adviser to predecessor Francois Hollande from 2012 to 2014, then as his economy minister.

Beyond the important issues Macron’s tackling, his body language drew the most public attention on his summit outings.

The most symbolic image was his handshake with Trump at their first meeting, in Brussels. After some friendly chatter, the two gripped each other’s hands so tightly before the cameras that their jaws seemed to clench. It looked like Trump was ready to pull away first, but Macron wasn’t…

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