TAORMINA, Italy â President Trump failed to commit to remaining within the Paris climate agreement during a two-day meeting with world leaders that ended here Saturday, but he tweeted that he was still considering it and would announce a final decision ânext week.â
In a final communique, the Group of 7 industrialized countries said that the United States âis not in a position to join the consensus.â The other six members reaffirmed their commitment to swiftly implement the 2015 accord to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The G-7 summit marked the last stop of Trumpâs first overseas trip, a grueling nine-day tour that included high-level discussions in the Middle East and with NATO, as well as a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
After leaving this picturesque town on the rugged Sicilian hillsides, Trump helicoptered to the U.S. Naval Air Station at Sigonella on the island to board Air Force One for the flight home. He summed up his journey in a rousing campaign-style speech to assembled U.S. service members at the base, promising it would pave the way for âa lot of strengthâ and âa lot of peace.â
âFrom Saudi Arabia to Israel to NATO to the G-7, we made extraordinary gains on this historic trip to advance the security and prosperity of the United States, our friends and our allies,â Trump said. âAnd we paved the way for a new era of cooperation among the nations of the world to defeat the common enemy of terrorism.â
Trump reflected on how many places he had visited, saying, âWe have been gone for close to nine days .â.â. and I think we hit a home run, no matter where we are.â
Earlier, in an off-camera press briefing for reporters, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said of the climate discussions: âWeâre all trying to get to the right place, respectful of each other.â He described a âvery robust conversation .â.â. a lot of give and takeâ in discussions that included leaders from Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Italy.
Asked if Trump had given a sign of which way he was leaning on the accord, which he called a job killer and vowed to rip up during his campaign, Cohn said âI donât know.â
After a first round of meetings Friday, Cohn, who favors retaining the agreement, had said Trumpâs position was âevolving.â
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who joined the briefing with Cohn, said Trump had âdelivered on all threeâ of his core objectives for the trip: reaffirming American global leadership and alliances, solidifying âkey relationshipsâ with world leaders, and bringing a message of tolerance and unity against terrorism to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
Both McMaster and Cohn refused to respond to questions about Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the subject of a new controversy roiling Washington after a Washington Post story revealed he had discussed with the Russian ambassador to the United States the possibility of establishing a back-channel line of communications with Russia.
âIâm not prepared to talk about it,â McMaster said, adding that he and Cohn were only prepared to speak about Trumpâs trip.
Recounting what they described as successes over the past week, they noted pledges by Arab countries â made during Trumpâs first stop in Saudi Arabia â to step up their coordination in the fight against terrorism, including a renewed crackdown on militant financing and ending destructive Iranian activity in the region.
Sunni Saudi Arabia, McMaster said in a comment that may roil the Shiite minority that comprises about 15 percent of Muslims, as well as other Sunni Muslim allies, is âAmericaâs strongest partner in the Muslim world and arguably .â.â. the strongest Muslim voice.â
Cohn spoke of the most âamazing deals that have really been made by an administration everâ that Trump had clinched in Riyadh, including both private-sector investments and arms sales. He put the total at âclose to half a trillionâ dollars, although the administration initially set it at $380 billion and did not provide details of the agreements.
McMaster called âbaselessâ reports that European leaders were concerned over Trumpâs failure to restate the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO charter during an alliance summit in Brussels. The provision pledges all 28 NATO members to treat an attack against any of them as an attack against all.
âHe made a decision not to say it. It was implicit in the speech,â McMaster said of Trumpâs address to the alliance, in which he recalled that Article 5 had only once been invoked, following the September 2001 terrorist attack in the United States. âItâs a matter of fact that the United States and the president stand firmly behind our Article 5 commitment,â McMaster said.
He said that âmany of the alliesâ had privately approached him and President Trump to thank him for aggressively pressing NATO members to spend more on defense.
On the climate agreement, Cohn said that he did not know where Trump was in his thinking on the issue. âWhat youâre asking me to do is tell you whatâs inside the presidentâs mind. Iâm not qualified to do that,â said Cohn, who has briefed the president numerous times on the issue and attended G-7 meetings about it.
When asked why Trump had not held a news conference or spoken at any length with reporters accompanying him on his travels, Cohn said Trump had been working ânonstop.â U.S. presidents traditionally hold news conferences when they travel overseas.
âOne thing you have to admit,â he said of the president, âsince he left last Friday, he has put in 14-, 15-, 18-, 20-hourâ days of work.
When it was pointed out that every other leader at the G-7 had scheduled a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting, Cohn, who was speaking in front of a television screen on which Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni was addressing the media and taking questions, Cohn said, âIâm not sure thatâs true.â
Not far from the summit meeting, which was held in a historic monastery-turned-luxury hotel on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, several thousand demonstrators had assembled in the nearby town of Giardini Naxos to march toward police barricades.
One group carried banners objecting to Europeâs treatment of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Another, calling itself âWomen Against Trump,â planned to protest what marchers said was the presidentâs âsexism.â
By the time the protest march began weaving its way along a narrow, seaside street toward the heavily armed security presence, however, Trump had already left.
Demonstrators who had expressed concern that their ranks were infiltrated by anarchist groups scattered as some among them crashed toward the barricades and Italian police began lobbying tear gas at them.
Stefano Pitrelli in Giardini Naxos contributed to this report.