By Hajer M'tiri
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday denied the U.S. president Donald Trump’s claim that NATO powers agreed to increase defense spending beyond previous targets.
"There is a communique that was published yesterday. It's very detailed," Macron told a press conference in Brussels. He added the communique "confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That's all."
The summit statement affirmed a commitment made in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea that NATO allies would halt defence spending cuts and start spending more as their economies grow, with the aim of moving toward 2 percent of GDP within a decade.
On Wednesday, day one of the meeting, Trump took aim at NATO members’ defense spending, calling on allies to not only meet the minimum goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, but also urged them to double that to a total of 4 percent.
Only five NATO members have met the 2 percent benchmark to date, including the U.S. NATO expects the number of countries that are meeting the guideline to rise to eight this year, and expects the number to rise to 15 by 2024.
Trump, however, sent a tweet from the summit insisting members "must" meet the goal, set in 2014, "IMMEDIATELY."
Macron said he did not believe it was necessarily a good idea to raise the target for NATO members’ defense spending to 4 percent of GDP from 2 percent, as Trump has suggested.
The French president also denied reports that Trump threatened to withdraw his country from the NATO military alliance in a dispute over funding.
"President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO," Macron told reporters.
He said the leaders of the alliance’s 29 members met in an extraordinary session on Thursday morning at the request of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.