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Merkel declines Davos invite for second year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be steering clear of the World Economic Forum at Davos later this month. The summit coincides with Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, which is expected to dominate discussion.

For the second year running, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won't be among the political figureheads and global business CEOs attending this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.

"We regret the decision but the German federal government will, as in the past, be represented by a high-level delegation," WEF organizers said Monday.

A spokesman for Merkel said: "It's true that a Davos trip was being considered, but we never confirmed it, so this is not a cancellation."

The chancellor's office cited a scheduling conflict as reason for Merkel's non-attendance, although it declined to provide more detail. Merkel's office also did not comment on whether her decision was linked with last month's attack on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (both from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party) are expected to attend.

Merkel's absence marks the first time she will miss the Davos summit for two consecutive years, and may come as a significant blow to organizers. This year's conference will take place under the banner "Responsive and Responsible Leadership," and talk will likely be dominated by public resentment toward the political establishment and globalization. Amid widespread populist revolt, Merkel is widely regarded as a principled leader who would fit the themes of the summit.

Merkel's decision to ditch this year's WEF reflects other leaders' reluctance to attend the conference, which every year is staged at a luxurious ski resort and has become synonymous with the global elite.

French President Francois Hollande, who announced last month that he will not be seeking a second term as president, has also declined the invitation.

European leaders scheduled to attend include Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Ireland's Enda Kenny. British Prime Minister Theresa May might also attend amid the country's preparations to withdraw from the European Union.

Leaders gather amid Trump inauguration

Donald Trump's impending US presidency is also expected to dominate this year's summit, no less because its final day coincides with the president-elect's inauguration. Trump's presidential campaign was largely fueled by populist resentment toward the political establishment and calls for protectionist trade policies.

One European official told news agency Reuters that the subject of Trump may have discouraged Merkel from attending. Many of the German chancellor's policies are at odds with Trump's, for example on issues such as immigration, Russia and trade.

Trump, meanwhile, labeled Merkel's "open-door" migrant policy as "insane" during his election campaign.

Guest of honor

With Merkel absent, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to be the star attraction of Davos 2017. "The uncertainties that currently characterize the global climate have increased the overall interest in this year's Davos summit," the WEF said in a statement. Xi would be the first Chinese leader to attend the conference.

Some 3,000 people are expected at the summit from January 17 to 20, ranging from political leaders to CEOs of large global firms.

Watch video 25:59

Angela Merkel: Defender of the free world?

dm/cmk (Reuters, dpa)

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