Merkel highlights Germany’s ties to US, despite current differences


By Thomas Lanig, dpa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the overwhelming significance of transatlantic relations at a reception on Friday for the diplomatic corps at a government retreat near Berlin.

“We Germans have learned what freedom and independence mean from the United States of America,” she said at Meseberg Palace, setting to one side recent tensions over trade and the role of NATO.

Merkel recalled the Berlin Airlift that began in late June 1948 to supply the then-divided city’s western sectors, almost exactly 70 years ago.

The same solidarity had facilitated the German reunification process in 1990. “We have not forgotten any of this,” Merkel said.

Turning to current differences, she said: “I can only hope that we do not end up in a spiral of conflicts over trade.”

US Ambassador Richard Grenell, a confidant of US President Donald Trump, was on hand to hear the chancellor praise efforts by Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, in reducing nuclear tensions.

There had been clear progress in containing the conflict with North Korea, which now had to fulfil its pledges, Merkel said.

Germany had to invest more in defence and remained committed to NATO, she said, adding that Germany had to shoulder greater responsibility in the western alliance – another key Trump demand.

Cooperation between NATO and the European Union needed to become more intensive, she said.

Turning to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the chancellor called for the NATO-Russia Council to pursue its discussions with greater urgency. This could result in an improvement in relations with Russia – “something that Germany in particular is striving for,” she said.

The EU extended economic sanctions on Russia on Thursday over the Ukraine conflict, to the end of January 2019.

The sanctions were first adopted in July 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and its support for separatists in the country’s east.