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Trump is tip of the tongue at last NATO talks for Kerry

US, EU and NATO officials are stressing the importance of trans-Atlantic security ties. The shock election of Donald Trump as president has many officials concerned that the United States could cut its cord to Europe.

NATO and the EU have agreed on 42 proposals for cooperation on cybersecurity, naval measures and regional defense, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. The alliance is meeting after the election of Donald Trump as US president.

"Questions have been asked with respect to the strength of the trans-Atlantic bond," Stoltenberg told reporters before chairing Tuesday's meeting of the 28-nation military alliance's foreign ministers. "I think the best way to respond to those questions is to deliver stronger NATO-EU cooperation," he said, without referring directly to Trump.

Stoltenberg said he had spoken with Trump by telephone after November's election and was "absolutely confident" that the former reality show host would commit to NATO when he assumed the presidency. The US, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of NATO members' combined annual defense expenditure, has long pressed its allies to contribute much more. Fewer than half a dozen of NATO's 22 EU members spend the alliance's agreed-upon target of 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense annually.

'Very, very important'

During his campaign, Trump said NATO's EU members had not contributed their fair share to the joint defense budget and that he wanted the alliance to do more to combat terrorism. By far NATO's biggest funder, the US has for years demanded that its partners spend more, but Trump's heated and unpredictable rhetoric has unsettled many allies. They have also grown wary of Trump's uncritical view of Vladimir Putin, even as Russia's president makes more assertive use of his armed forces in Europe

Attending his final NATO meeting as US secretary of state, John Kerry said ministers would discuss "how we need to come together to make sure that there's a stronger Europe, a stronger NATO, and the interests that we all share we are continuing to work on together - and I think the unity is very, very important."

Kerry's replacement under Trump also remains a source of anxiety for NATO members. As the current secretary of state met his counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday, Trump also planned to hold talks that could determine the country's next top diplomat.

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, whose diplomatic experience centered on acquiring private drilling rights for his company, planned to drop by Trump's eponymous tower to discuss the role. The incoming president, who also made his fortune in the private sector before entering politics, reportedly planned to meet former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

In Brussels, the ministers will likely turn their focus toward NATO's relations with Russia on Tuesday evening and operations in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

mkg/se (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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