Transatlantic solidarity in times of crisis United States of America

02.03.2016 - Article

Foreign Minister Steinmeier in the United States: Focus on close transatlantic cooperation in the current crises and conflicts as well as the German OSCE Chairmanship.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier crossed the Atlantic for a three-day visit: he held political talks in New York and Washington from 28 February to 1 March. The talks focused on the close bilateral coordination in pressing foreign policy issues, as well as on Germany’s Chairmanship of the OSCE. On Tuesday, Steinmeier stressed in his speech to students at the George Washington University how important the transatlantic partnership was, especially in tackling the current crises in Syria, Libya and Ukraine.

Solidarity among friends: Steinmeier and Kerry
Solidarity among friends: Steinmeier and Kerry© Michael Gottschalk/photothek.net

The trip took place at a time of particularly intensive and close German-American cooperation on many foreign policy issues. On Monday (29 February), Foreign Minister Steinmeier met – among others – his counterpart John Kerry for in-depth discussions. On Tuesday, Steinmeier met National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The talks focused on the recent efforts to calm the fighting in Syria, the forthcoming Ukraine meeting in the Normandy format in Paris this Thursday, as well as tackling the refugee crisis. Steinmeier and Kerry emphasised their especially close cooperation based on mutual trust in all of these areas – as well as the need to further strengthen the transatlantic partnership, especially in these “turbulent times, difficult times, indeed dangerous times”.

The day before setting off, Steinmeier called the German-American friendship “a valuable asset” and “our transatlantic community of shared values indispensable”.

Cooperation with the US in the foreign policy field has perhaps never been so close or so imbued with a spirit of partnership than it is today. In these truly turbulent times, in a world which seems to have got out of joint, and also in light of some strident comments made during the American primaries, that is a trump card which we have to value and cherish.

Close transatlantic relations
Close transatlantic relations© Federal Foreign Office

Close relations based on partnership

Steinmeier went on to say that during the talks in Washington the key issue would “of course be the situation in Syria so shortly after the start of the ceasefire”, as well as the refugee crisis, relations with Russia and the situation in Ukraine. He said that it was important to “consolidate bilateral relations and discuss all issues of importance, even with such a close partner”. He continued: “This is what we are doing! We stand united in our crisis policy, liaise very closely and divide tasks. Together with France, Germany has assumed a key role in the Ukraine conflict. The US is leading the way with courage, perseverance and good judgement in the Middle East, especially Syria.”

Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Secretary of State Kerry last met on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference and at the international meeting on Syria in the Bavarian capital in mid-February. Steinmeier added with regard to the regular transatlantic coordination: “Even though I have certainly seen John Kerry more than a dozen times during the last few months, and we have spoken on the phone even more frequently, taking the time to meet in person to look carefully at the whole range of challenges and conflicts we have to tackle together is of inestimable value”.

The UN Security Council with Foreign Minister Steinmeier (on the right)
The UN Security Council with Foreign Minister Steinmeier (on the right)© Federal Foreign Office

Strong OSCE and UN needed in turbulent times

In addition to discussing international affairs, the trip was also an opportunity to present the priorities of the German Chairmanship of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). Foreign Minister Steinmeier outlined them on Monday morning at the UN Security Council in New York. Steinmeier subsequently told the press that the focus was on the situation in the Ukraine conflict. Furthermore, Steinmeier called for more intensive relations between the OSCE and the United Nations:

Especially in difficult and turbulent times, we need strong multilateral organisations as platforms for dialogue, as instruments for conflict resolution and as institutions which promote our values and principles – the OSCE and the United Nations are such organisations.

On Tuesday, the German Foreign Minister also presented the programme for Germany’s OSCE Chairmanship to the Helsinki Commission in Washington, answered the questions put by the members of the Commission and stressed that the third dimension, i.e. the strengthening of human rights, was a main focus of Germany’s efforts. He also spoke explicitly about the fight against racism, intolerance, anti-Semitism, as well as gender issues.

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