Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier travelled to the United States from 11 to 13 March for a three‑day visit to the US capital Washington, D.C. and to Atlanta. His talks focused on current international challenges such as the crisis in Ukraine and nuclear negotiations with Iran, but also on bilateral relations between Germany and the United States. In a speech at the renowned US think tank CSIS Steinmeier called the transatlantic partnership “the key to overcoming the current crises.”
Shortly after arriving in Washington, D.C. Foreign Minister Steinmeier met his US counterpart, John Kerry, at the US Department of State. In their joint press conference, the German Foreign Minister underlined that the frequent meetings of the past months had shown that “we need each other as partners”. Steinmeier met Kerry most recently last weekend in Paris for talks on the next steps in the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Iran: continue negotiating seriously
Once again, the nuclear talks were one of the main points on the agenda of Steinmeier and Kerry’s meeting in Washington, D.C. Steinmeier said he had taken part in the talks with Iran ten years ago and now had the impression for the first time that the negotiations of the past year were serious. He added:
There has been progress, but not all obstacles have been overcome yet. Iran remains called upon to continue negotiating with the same level of seriousness that we saw in the past year.
The German Foreign Minister said there was not a choice between a “good deal” and a “bad deal”. Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb must be “unequivocally, verifiably and permanently” precluded, he said.
In a statement to German journalists on the morning of 12 March, Steinmeier also mentioned the letter sent to the Iranian leadership by 47 Republican senators, stating that in their letter the Republicans had pointed out that President Obama could not conclude a lasting agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme without the US Congress. Steinmeier voiced his hope that the letter would not disrupt the negotiations for much longer –, in Teheran mistrust was now growing over whether “our side is really serious about the negotiations.”
Ukraine: aiming for the second phase of the Minsk agreements
The crisis in Ukraine was another important topic during the talks between Steinmeier and Kerry. Steinmeier reiterated that the Minsk agreements were the only – and perhaps last – way to bring about a de‑escalation in the crisis.
He said we were a long way from feeling satisfied with the outcome of the agreements, and that it was now a matter of continuing to exert pressure.
We must try to put a stop to breaches of the ceasefire. This is the only way that we can reach the second phase of the Minsk agreements, a phase that can pave the way to a political settlement.
The German Foreign Minister also praised the decision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide funds to Ukraine in order to give the country some “breathing space”.
Germany as “chief facilitating officer” in Europe
On Thursday morning (12 March), Steinmeier gave a speech on the importance of transatlantic relations in times of acute international crises at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a renowned US think tank. According to the Foreign Minister, recent years had shown that Europe and the United States were strongest when they stood together – the transatlantic partnership was the key to overcoming the current crises.
In his speech, Steinmeier also addressed the question of Germany’s future foreign policy responsibility: In order to provide an appropriate response to the erosion of the international order it was necessary to use the entire range of instruments in the diplomatic tool box, said the Foreign Minister, adding that:
Germany was striving to take on the role of “chief facilitating officer” and honest broker within Europe. A thorough analysis of the different interests of the European partners was a pre‑requisite for a joint European response to the current crises.
Atlanta: from cotton production to industrial region
However, German‑US relations go far beyond the current crisis diplomacy, as Steinmeier made clear during the second part of his trip. The city of Atlanta is a symbol of the close economic ties between Germany and the United States; many German companies are located around the capital of the US state of Georgia.
The Foreign Minister exchanged views with the heads of some of these businesses over a lunch. He then went on to meet Governor of Georgia Nathan Deal who described the transformation of the former centre of cotton production into a modern industrial region.
Visit to the Georgia Institute of Technology
That morning, Steinmeier had visited the H. Milton Stewart School of̀ Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. Alongside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Berkeley University, the Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the best universities for engineering in the US.
The Georgia Institute of Technology is particularly well‑known for its practice‑focused work at the interface between research and business. Many German scientists and students are employed here. Amongst other things, Steinmeier learnt about state‑of‑the‑art 3D printing to create artificial organs.
Paying tribute to Martin Luther King
The German Foreign Minister concluded his trip by visiting the Martin Luther King memorial in Atlanta. He was accompanied by John Lewis, a member of the House of Representatives and one of King’s companions. Lewis led Steinmeier and his delegation through the house where the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was born and the Ebenezer Baptist Church located next door, where he used to preach.
Lewis and Steinmeier paused for a moment in front of the graves of Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta. During the ensuing visit to the Martin Luther King Museum, Lewis told Steinmeier about his acquaintance with King and their joint march to Washington in 1963.