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Germany's foreign minister arrived in Washington to convey 'an offer of friendship and trust.' He met with government leaders including VP Mike Pence who is to visit the Munich Security Conference later this month.
Sigmar Gabriel's first stop on his visit to Washington 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."
During his election campaign, President Donald Trump had criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel's approach to allowing refugees to enter Germany, while Merkel has denounced his executive order which temporarily banned refugees and people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the US.
Speaking to reporters, Gabriel emphasized that he wanted to demonstrate that Germany was seeking continued cooperation with the new administration.
"There have been times in which Germany and the United States were not of the same opinion. There also have been times of great conflict," Gabriel told reporters.
"What binds us with the US is shared value structure, but these values need to be adhered to. There must be no deviation from that - that includes of course religious freedom and the fair dealings in the world with each other," Gabriel said.
'The new kids on the block'
Only a week after himself becoming Germany's foreign minister, Gabriel met with his American counterpart, newly sworn-in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson had invited him to Washington to meet in person as one of his first orders of business. Gabriel, who is also Germany's vice chancellor, referred to himself and Tillerson as "the new kids on the block."
Gabriel also met with Vice President Mike Pence, who is planning to attend the Munich Security Conference and to visit Brussels later in February. The pair discussed Pence's plans for the trip along with the importance of US-Germany relations. According to the White House, Pence will speak with European allies "about how to deepen and strengthen the transatlantic alliance."
Officials in Washington also said that the two discussed "NATO's centrality in ensuring the security and stability of North America and Europe," while also addressing how NATO "must adapt to confront threats to our countries such as violent extremism and terrorism."
Lost in translation?
"I was very satisfied with the fact that we had a broad range of common understandings," Gabriel said following his meetings with the two officials.
Before meeting Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence, Gabriel took visited the Library of Congress to read Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address and a German language version of the US Declaration of Independence, which the German Foreign Office described in a picture posted on Twitter as "important values until today." Twitter users were quick to point out the apparent translation error - in the original German it translates roughly to "important values, also at this time," alluding to the enduring nature of said values and not their impending demise.
Gabriel had stressed how important it was that he visits the US as a first priority. In a statement issued on his departure, Gabriel said the US had always been Germany's closest ally outside Europe.
"There are pressing issues on the international agenda which will require close liaison between Germany and America, as well as between Europe and America. There are questions we want to ask the new US Administration about its foreign policy, its relationship to the [NATO] Alliance and the world order," Gabriel said.
se/jm (AFP, dpa)