In an interview with Swiss public television RTS, Emmanuel Macron confirmed that the tree he planted together with US President Donald Trump in 2018 was indeed dead.
“But we will send him another one. It is not a drama,” Macron said Tuesday.
In 2018, Macron tweeted a video of the tree-planting ceremony on Twitter, saying the oak tree would be a “reminder, in the heart of the White House, of this bond that unites us.”
However, while speaking with RTS, Macron said its death should not be seen as a symbol for French-US relations.
“We should not see a symbol where there is none. The symbol is that we planted it together,” he said.
The French President added: “It so happened that this oak tree for quarantine sanitary reasons did not survive the quarantine in America … the poor thing did not survive because it had to go through quite a tough diet. So another birch tree will be sent.”
The original tree came from Belleau Wood in northern France, where thousands of US troops died during World War I.
“Over 9,000 American marines died in the Belleau Wood battle in June 1918 and the forest is a memorial site and important symbol of the sacrifice the United States made to ensure peace and stability in Europe,” the White House said in a statement in 2018.
However, shortly after the ceremonial planting, the European sessile oak – which was about four feet to five inches tall, and between five and 10 years old – was removed and placed under the care of the United States Depart of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at its facilities in Beltsville, Maryland.
The official told CNN at the time the quarantine was part of normal regulatory rules for imported trees and that it could remain in isolation for up to two years.
A friendship of friction?
While Trump and Macron appeared to get along during the D-Day Commemoration events in Normandy, France last week, there has been more recent friction rather than friendship.
Once described as a “bromance,” the presidential relationship has since withered. Macron has been openly critical of Trump’s increasingly “America First” mentality in the past year, when it comes to issues ranging from climate change to the Iran nuclear deal.
During a speech in September 2018 to the United Nations General Assembly, Macron argued that “dialogue and multilateralism” were a more effective means of solving problems. The French President is not supportive of an isolationist approach to fix what ails the world’s conflicts.
CNN’s Betsy Klein and Kate Bennett contributed to this report.