German defense minister names Mongolian horse ′true friendship′ as Asia tour starts | News | DW | 20.10.2018
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German defense minister names Mongolian horse 'true friendship' as Asia tour starts

Ursula von der Leyen has kicked off a tour of Asia in Ulaanbaatar, where she didn't look her gift horse in the mouth but did whisper into its ear. She will also head to China, Australia and Bahrain for security talks.

As part of a weeklong Asia tour, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen spent Saturday in Ulaanbaatar, where she visited German soldiers and discussed defense cooperation with Mongolian politicians. She also took part in traditional customs centered around the country's famous horses.

The stop in Mongolia was the first on a trip that will also take her next to China, followed by Australia and Bahrain. The focus will be on security issues such as cyberattacks, hybrid threats, and the international fight against terrorism, von der Leyen told reporters in Berlin Friday before departing.

"Despite the long distance, the security situation in Asia directly affects Germany," she said. "That is why we must keep up our relationships and orient our policies towards the region."

Special gift, productive meeting

Ursula von der Leyen and Enkhbold stand on stairs surrounded by Mongolian military officials (DW/M. Koschyk)

Von der Leyen and her counterpart, Enkhbold (both center), signed a technical agreement on cooperation

After landing in the Ulaanbaatar, von der Leyen met with her Mongolian counterpart, Nyamaa Enkhbold, who also gave the German minister a Mongolian horse as an official state gift. In keeping with Mongolian custom, von der Leyen gave the horse a new name, whispering it into the animal's ear. Von der Leyen named the horse Andaa, a Mongolian word for "true friendship."

Horses are very important in Mongolian culture, and ownership is considered a sign of prestige. The country's horse population outnumbers its human one. 

In a joint press conference following talks, von der Leyen praised the long-term military cooperation between Germany and Mongolia, emphasizing their missions in Afghanistan. The two defense ministers signed a technical agreement outlining future cooperation.

Von der Leyen also met with around 40 German soldiers who are stationed in Mongolia to help train the country's forces.

On to China, Australia and Bahrain

On Sunday von der Leyen will be in China, where she will meet with Chinese military officials the next day. She will then head to Australia. She will be present in Sydney on Thursday for the Invictus Games, a sports championship founded by Prince Harry of Britain for wounded, injured or sick armed services members from around the world.

She will finish up her Asia tour in Bahrain, where she will take part in the Manama Dialogue on Middle East security.

Von der Leyen meets with German troops who are training Mongolian soldiers (DW/M. Koschyk)

Von der Leyen met with German troops who are training Mongolian soldiers

cmb/jm (AFP, dpa)

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