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Merkel, Biden pledge closer cooperation

January 25, 2021

In her first phone call with US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said international cooperation was vital to tackling global challenges like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

Biden and Merkel shake hands
Biden and Merkel met in Berlin when he was vice president in 2013; the pandemic might delay their next handshakeImage: Maurizio Gambarini/dpa/picture alliance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call that the coronavirus pandemic and other global challenges could only be met if countries worked together, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday.

In their first phone conversation since Biden took office last week, Merkel also welcomed Biden returning the US to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris climate agreement.

"The chancellor and the American president agreed that stronger international efforts were needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic," said Seibert.

The leaders also spoke about foreign policy issues like Afghanistan and Iran, along with trade and climate policy, Seibert said, adding that Merkel "declared Germany's willingness to take on responsibility in dealing with international tasks together with its European and transatlantic partners."

Merkel also congratulated Biden on his inauguration and invited the 78-year-old US president to Germany as soon as the pandemic allowed him to travel.

Mending a transatlantic rift

Transatlantic relations were strained under former US President Donald Trump, who accused the EU of "cheating" at the expense of the US economy, both in terms of trade and military cooperation in NATO. Perhaps one symbol of this tension was the decision to remove 9,000 US troops from Germany.

On Thursday, Merkel said during a press conference that Germany and the US now shared more common ground now that Biden has replaced Trump.

"There is simply a far broader scope for political consensus with President Biden," Merkel told reporters, adding that Biden's actions since taking office showed that he was more closely aligned with Germany.

Merkel is the third European leader Biden has spoken with since taking office. On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Biden, and on Sunday French President Emmanuel Macron received a call.

On Monday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas brushed aside a question asking whether being the third country to receive a call from the new president — albeit behind western Europe's two permanent Security Council members and nuclear powers — was a bad omen for German-US relations.

"You can see it that way, but you don't have to see it that way. I think that the issues that we have to deal with are essentially important for us," said Maas. "I am very confident that we are presented with great opportunities."

wmr/msh  (Reuters, AFP, dpa)