Merkel meets with Biden at White House

·3-min read

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden have made a clear commitment to transatlantic partnership as they met during what would likely be Merkel's last formal visit to Washington.

Merkel is the first head of government from Europe to be received by Biden at the White House since he took office. The visit is a bid to renew ties after the tensions unleashed by his predecessor Donald Trump's "America First" administration.

"We are not just allies and partners, but also nations that are close friends," Merkel said on Thursday after extensive talks with Biden.

Biden thanked Merkel for her leadership as she prepares to end her 16 years in office, and said the partnership between Washington and Berlin would grow stronger on the foundation she helped to build.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to "close bilateral cooperation in promoting peace, security, and prosperity around the world" in a "Washington Declaration".

But they also made clear that they continue to disagree over the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is almost complete and will supply Russian natural gas to Europe via Germany.

Even good friends can have a difference of opinion, Biden said, adding that he had again expressed his concerns to Merkel.

He said the US and Germany agreed to support Ukraine in its reforms and regarding sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The pipeline will deliver natural gas from Russia directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine. Merkel stressed that Nord Stream 2 was intended as an additional project, not a replacement for Ukraine as a gas transit route.

"Our understanding was and remains that Ukraine stays a transit country for natural gas," Merkel said. Anything else would create great tension, she said.

She gave assurances that Germany would "respond actively if Russia does not honour this right of Ukraine to be a transit country."

The 11-billion-dollar pipeline project has long been a source of US-German tensions, with Washington arguing it poses a security risk by increasing Europe's dependence on Russia.

Some eastern European NATO partners have also rejected the project.

Merkel earlier met with Vice President Kamala Harris, US business leaders and received an honorary doctorate at Johns Hopkins University.

She called for more international dialogue and cooperation and for the United Nations to be made more capable of action to find global answers to global questions as she received the doctorate.

Merkel also thanked the United States for its "outstanding contribution" in the "turning point" that was Germany's reunification, adding she was also grateful personally.

"Germany and America are closely linked," Merkel said, while also referring to the close partnership between Europe and the US. "No two regions in the world are linked by such depth and breadth of shared interests and values as Europe and North America."

The chancellor has made more than 20 visits to Washington during her 16 years in office, with Biden now the fourth president to occupy the White House since she came to power in 2005.

Meanwhile Merkel's visit was overshadowed by the rising number of people dead and missing in flooding in western Germany. She said her thoughts were with them and promised support to those affected.

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