PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed the death of an oak tree he had offered U.S. President Donald Trump last year on Tuesday, saying people shouldn’t read symbols into everything and that he would send the American leader a new tree.
The two men celebrated the special relationship between the United States and France during Macron’s state visit in April 2018 to Washington by planting the oak sapling on the grounds of the White House.
It was put in quarantine because of fears parasites on the tree could spread to others on the White House property.
U.S. officials this weekend said it had died prompting a flurry of social media posts comparing its death to the difficult relationship the two leaders have had since that visit.
Macron is at odds over the American’s unilateralist approach to trade, climate change and a nuclear deal with Iran.
“We will send him another, it is not a tragedy,” Macron told Switzerland’s RTS network on the sidelines of an International Labour Organisation meeting in Geneva. “Do not see symbols where there are none, the symbol was to plant it together”.
The tree, from Belleau Wood in France where almost 2,000 American soldiers died in a World War One battle, had been dug up not long after it was planted.
“It turns out that this oak was put in quarantine for American sanitary reasons and the poor thing did not survive,” Macron said. “I’ll send another oak because I think the U.S. Marines and the friendship for freedom between our peoples is well worth it.”
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; writing by John Irish; editing by Michel Rose)