BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday he was reassured after meetings last week with top U.S. officials that the United States was committed to a united Europe and to the NATO alliance.
U.S. President Donald Trump described NATO as “obsolete” prior to taking office and has also suggested others follow Britain out of the European Union, which he has called “a vehicle for Germany”.
“We have all been unsettled by various statements by the new U.S. administration,” Gabriel, who met U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week, told German broadcaster ARD.
“Both U.S. Vice President Pence and his colleague Tillerson made it clear in the talks that they have a strong interest in a united Europe, that they stand by a transatlantic partnership in NATO,” Gabriel said, adding that this had “relativised much of what we heard before”.
Gabriel, who sought to foster a working relationship with the new U.S. administration on his trip to Washington and New York, urged German lawmakers and European officials to travel to the United States “to stabilise these contacts”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the go-to European ally for former U.S. president Barack Obama, who praised her as “an outstanding partner”. But under Trump, relations have deteriorated rapidly.
Merkel’s government has made an offer to Trump’s team for her to visit the United States in the spring in her capacity as chairman of the G20 group of leading economies, government sources have said.
Trump has accepted an invitation to go to a G20 summit that Merkel will host in Hamburg in early July.
Turning to Russia, Gabriel said: “I think we should all hope there are agreements between Russia and the U.S., not to the detriment of Ukraine or to Europe, but if there is an easing of tensions between these two world powers, then that is good.”
Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Andrew Bolton