Gauck meets with Obama at the White House | News | DW | 07.10.2015
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Gauck meets with Obama at the White House

US President Barack Obama has met with German President Joachim Gauck at the White House. The German head of state called for the US to be engaged in addressing the influx of Syrian refugees into Europe.

The former pastor from East Germany, whose visit to the United States coincided with the 25th anniversary of German reunification, made the first visit to the Oval Office by a German president in 18 years on Wednesday.

The visit and meeting between presidents Joachim Gauck, whose role is largely ceremonial, and Barack Obama, aimed to reaffirm the US-German relationship. Still, DW United States correspondent Richard Walker said the pair touched on the world's major geopolitical crises during their hour-long talk.

Gauck and Obama discussed Germany's role in the current refugee crisis as well as the dangers of populism and xenophobia. Obama was reported to have praised Germany's willingness to take in refugees, calling the country a role model. He also praised Gauck personally for his role as a pro-democracy activist in the former East Germany.

"Germany because of its history is ready to welcome these people in dire need," Gauck said of those fleeing in their hundreds of thousands to Europe, adding there was a need to find a solution to help people fleeing for their lives from the Syrian war but also to address the root causes of that conflict.

"We are very much aware that this is a major humanitarian challenge that we have to address," Gauck added. "My hope would be, my wish would be, that awareness does not only exist in Europe, but it's also something that is recognized in the United States of America."

Gauck and Obama also talked about the dangers of political instability within Germany posed by the migration crisis, DW's Richard Walker said.

More than half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean by boat so far this year attempting to flee conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East - including the Syrian war. European authorities have been struggling to regulate the arrivals of people and provide them humanitarian care. Germany expects to receive some 800,000 asylum applications this year alone.

The United States has taken in about 1,500 Syrian refugees over the past four years. In September, Obama pledged to admit 10,000 refugees from Syria in the following year. That same month US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the US would increase the number of refugees from around the world it accepts for resettlement, from the current 70,000 per year to 85,000 in the 2016 fiscal year and 100,000 by 2017.

The White House has also asked the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to launch a campaign to raise money for the United Nations' refugee agency to provide aid to displaced Syrians.

Obama praised Germany's role as "one of our strongest allies," mentioning the country's role in negotiations on the Ukraine conflict and Iran nuclear deal. According to Walker, Obama and Gauck also discussed issues like the NSA spying scandal, which has at times strained relations between the two allied nations.

se/sms (dpa)

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