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Germany's Gabriel 'reassured' after US meetings

Germany Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says he is "reassured" after meeting US officials that the US is committed to a strong EU and NATO. Gabriel stressed the importance of the US for Berlin after recent spats.

In the first official meeting between a high-ranking German official and the new US administration, Gabriel met his counterpart, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, who is to visit the Munich Security Conference later this month. 

"We have all been unsettled by various statements by the new US administration," Gabriel told the German broadcaster ARD.

"Both US Vice President Pence and his colleague Tillerson made it clear in the talks that they have a strong interest in a united Europe, that they stand by a trans-Atlantic partnership in NATO," Gabriel said, adding that this had "relativized much of what we heard before."

Gabriel arrived in Washington last week, saying he wanted to convey "an offer of friendship and trust" between the two largest economies in the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Gabriel's first stop on his visit on Thursday was the US Congress to speak with Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker and Senator Benjamin Cardin on "the importance of the US-German relationship."

In a statement issued on his departure, Gabriel said the US had always been Germany's closest ally outside Europe.

Testy relations

Germany's government and Trump have been on a diplomatic collision course on several major issues in bilateral relations - from trade to immigration and security.

Sigmar Gabriel meets Mike Pence in Washington

Sigmar Gabriel meets Mike Pence in Washington

Berlin has also expressed alarm about Trump's attitude toward NATO, as well as his economic policies, which have been described as protectionist.

Trump complained in January that there were too many German cars on US streets and not enough American cars on German streets. 

"The US will have to build better cars" if they want to change that, Gabriel said at the time.

After listening to Trump's inauguration speech emphasizing "America first," Gabriel said the Republican's rhetoric reminded him of undemocratic "reactionaries" of the 1920s.

During his election campaign, Trump criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's approach to allowing refugees to enter Germany, while Merkel has denounced an executive order that temporarily banned refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US.

Watch video 00:25

Washington, DC: Sigmar Gabriel meets Trump administration officials

jbh/bw (Reuters, ARD)

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