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Germany, US find common ground during Gabriel's Washington visit

Following talks with top White House officials, German Foreign Minister Gabriel has underscored NATO's importance in the face of extremist threats. Gabriel's visit has also brought him to the UN to meet leaders.

In his first state visit to Washington as Germany's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was able to find common ground with top officials in the Trump administration on Thursday.

Following talks with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Gabriel said he was "very satisfied with the fact that we had a broad range of common understandings."

NATO was high on Gabriel's agenda. The military alliance has been a sore spot with the new US administration after President Donald Trump dubbed the military alliance obsolete during campaigning.

However, the White House said in a statement Friday that Pence and Gabriel had agreed on NATO's crucial role in ensuring security and peace in Europe and North America. The White House's affirmation of NATO echoed last week's telephone call between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in which the two leaders stressed the "fundamental importance" of the NATO alliance to transatlantic ties.

"They also underscored that NATO must adapt to confront threats to our countries such as violent extremism and terrorism," said Friday's statement on Gabriel's meeting with Pence, adding that all alliance members needed to contribute "their fair share to our collective security."

Trump has vowed to exert pressure on NATO members who fail to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Germany currently allocates 1.19 percent of GDP, although Merkel has indicated she intends to increase defense spending.

However, Gabriel also admitted the differences between the two administrations remain, namely concerning migration, Europe, Ukraine and relations with Russia.

Watch video 00:25

Washington, DC: Sigmar Gabriel meets Trump administration officials

Gabriel vows to uphold Iran nuclear deal while US put sanctions on Tehran

Gabriel stressed the importance of doing whatever it takes to make progress on Iranian nuclear deal, which relaxed many economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for verifiable reductions in its nuclear programs. He made clear his views on the importance of the deal shortly before theTrump administration announced a new set of sanctions on Iran.

The German Foreign Minister said he understood the US' decision to impose sanctions, saying the ballistic missile test was in clear violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions. 

However, Gabriel warned that the test and sanctions should not impede any progress made since Iran and six world powers signed the nuclear deal in 2015. "It is also clear that the missile test has no impact on the nuclear agreement, and that we continue to support the implementation of this agreement and that the United States does not intend to question that agreement now," Gabriel told reporters, 

Onwards to New York

Following his White House meetings, Gabriel flew to New York on Friday for talks with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, as well as new UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres and the new US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

Speaking to reporters, Gabriel  reaffirmed Germany's support and commitmen to the UN. "We are a country that sees international cooperation as the way forward," he said, "and as the way to prevent war and human suffering." Germany is the UN's fourth biggest funding country, after the US, Japan and China. More than 6 percent of the UN's budget is financed by Germany.

Speaking of his meeting with Kissinger, Gabriel said that the former Secretary of State "to this day remains a good source of advice on transatlantic relations between Germany, Europe and the United State." 

Kissinger, who served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, remains a highly divisive political figure over his role in the US' war in Vietnam and bombing of Cambodia.  

Trump unease in SPD ranks

Shortly after Gabriel's Washington visit, Martin Schulz, the chancellor candidate for the center-left Social Democratic Party, issued a stinging attack at Trump.

In an interview to be published in Saturday's German weekly "Der Spiegel," Schulz accused the Trump administration of sparking a "cultural war" and "playing with the safety of the western world."

Schulz will face Merkel in this year's general election. While Germany's immigration policy is expected to dominate the election, future relations between Germany and the United States will also be a key discussion point in the wake of Trump's election, his protectionist policies and dismissive rhetoric towards the European Union.

dm/sms (Reuters, dpa)

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