US Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Angela Merkel for the first time since allegations emerged over the tapping of the German chancellor's phone by the NSA. It is one of several meetings for Kerry in Germany.
Kerry is in Germany for the 50th annual Munich Security Conference, where he is expected to meet with Ukrainian opposition leaders, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, among others.
First, however, Kerry has met with Germany's new foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Berlin, and will also sit down with Chancellor Merkel. She was the subject phone tapping by the National Security Agency (NSA), according to revelations from the US intelligence agency's former contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden.
No pact, but 'progress'
The allegations have strained the relationship between the US and Germany, with talks on a 'no-spying' pact between the two nations proving fruitless. Despite that, a US State Department official said "an enormous amount of progress" had been made on repairing ties: "Those discussions obviously will continue and I expect that the path forward will be one of the subjects that the secretary speaks to both Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel about," the official said.
Meanwhile, Kerry's decision to meet with opposition politicians from the Ukraine - where President Viktor Yanukovych has gone on sick leave - on the sidelines of the Security Conference has been met with ridicule by Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. Taking to Twitter on Friday, he labeled Kerry's scheduled talks with Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk and UDAR party chief Vitali Klitschko as a "circus."
Syria to be covered
Syria is also on Kerry's agenda, with talks with Lavrov, Ban and UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi scheduled. Lavrov's Russia remains an ally of Syria, which the United States is pressuring to meet the timelines of its chemical weapons disarmament agreement. Brahimi is to arrive in Munich fresh from the latest round of Syrian peace talks, held in Geneva.
Ban met with Merkel, Steinmeier and Germany's President Joachim Gauck on Thursday, encouraging Germany to further use its influence in international affairs: "Countries like Germany, which is one of the most thriving, most robust, most healthy economies - an economic power - should also show political leadership. That is why I am here," Ban said in Berlin after his talks.
ph/pfd (AFP, Reuters)