On 31 January Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his US counterpart John Kerry for talks in Berlin. In the evening the two ministers met again at the Munich Security Conference.
US Secretary of State Kerry travelled to the German capital on Friday for a brief visit. In the morning he was welcomed at Tegel airport by Foreign Minister Steinmeier. The two ministers first discussed current foreign policy challenges and bilateral issues in private. They then took part in a more public exchange of views and a joint press conference.
A friendship that has grown
Steinmeier, who broached the controversial subject of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities with his US counterpart, stressed that the German-American friendship rested on a “firm foundation”. However, he went on to say, “This kind of debate and conflicting views must not be allowed to destroy a friendship that has grown.”
Secretary of State Kerry underlined their joint efforts to tackle terrorist threats and emphasised that both countries were going through a process of close consultation and exchange. He added that they would continue to work on safeguarding the data protection interests of all citizens in the relevant bodies.
In the area of economic cooperation Kerry highlighted the work on a transatlantic free trade agreement between the EU and the United States as a central issue. He said that in the past the close economic relations between the United States and Germany had “meant more jobs, investment and growth” on both sides of the Atlantic.
Joining forces to tackle international crises
With regard to current crises and the start of the Munich Security Conference today (Friday, 31 January), Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier spotlighted Kerry’s strong commitment to working for a peaceful solution in the Middle East. Steinmeier not only expressed the hope that they would finally succeed in making a breakthrough, but also reiterated the promise of German support for the talks with the Israeli and Palestinian sides.
Steinmeier went on to say that a solution had to be found for “the great suffering in Syria, death, displacement and flight”. He said that during the peace conference in Geneva, a “small step” to prepare a political solution to the civil war in Syria had been attempted. This step amounted to the parties, who have been at war for three years, “at least sitting down at a negotiating table”. Germany is involved in the destruction of the residuals of Syrian chemical weapons, which are initially to be destroyed on an American ship.
The two ministers also discussed the future of the Iranian nuclear programme. Steinmeier summed up the situation: “An initial step has now been taken which encourages us to test whether Iran keeps its promises in the coming months. Then we can try and take another step.”
Ukraine also an issue at the Munich Security Conference
Ukraine was also a discussion point in Berlin, as it will be in Munich. Kerry stressed United States President Obama’s “full support” for the Ukrainian opposition. Representatives of the opposition and the government are expected to attend the Munich Security Conference. Steinmeier said that during the talks in Munich they intended to work with the other foreign ministers to do their part to ensure “that this country, Ukraine, has a free and democratic future”. Kerry added that this was about “the freedom of choice for the people of Ukraine and their ability to be able to define their future”.
After his meeting with US Secretary of State Kerry, Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled on to Munich for the Security Conference. Secretary of State Kerry went to the Federal Chancellery at midday for talks with Chancellor Merkel before also travelling on to Munich.