Ahead of Angela Merkel's first official meeting with the new administration at the White House next week, Reuters reports that President Trump will ask the German Chancellor for her views on how the United States can help resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine when they meet next week, senior Trump administration officials said on Friday. Trump will reportedly also ask for Merkel's advice on how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, advice which is pretty clear to anyone following the establishment German press over the past few years.
The question, of course, is whether Trump will follow Merkel's advice, which will be in line with the policies of the Obama administration, and will likely lead to further antagonism and distancing between the two nations which until recently had sought to break the ice that had developed in bilateral relations.
Meanwhile, ahead of her meeting with Trump, Merkel said Thursday that Europe must take on more responsibility and continue to stick to its open trade policy amid changes to the trans-Atlantic relationship under the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Merkel told the German Parliament that Europe "must be able to have an independent crisis management in our region" — not in competition, but in addition to NATO.
Merkel said that despite the current changes in the U.S., the "trans-Atlantic partnership based upon our values and interests" is of overriding importance for Europeans — and that "this is the spirit" in which she would lead her talks with Trump in Washington.
Indirectly referring to Trump's isolationist economic leanings, she said "even if in parts of the world we see protectionist and nationalist approaches on the rise, Europe may never isolate, seal itself off or withdraw."
Europe needs to be especially open-minded when it comes to trade policy, the chancellor said ahead of a trip to Brussels to attend a European Union summit.
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Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Russian President Putin, the source of so much controversy for Trump in recent weeks, held two meetings of his own.
On Thursday, he met with Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Putin urged Israel to focus on modern world affairs, after the visiting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu referred to an ancient legend of an Iranian forefather’s attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. Putin and Netanyahu touched upon a range of issues during their meeting in Moscow, such as the fight against terrorism, the crisis in Syria and Israel’s tough relations with Iran.
President Putin began by wishing Prime Minister Netanyahu a happy Purim, which is a traditional Jewish holiday that marks the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a vizier in the ancient Persian Empire. In response, Netanyahu said Persia made “an attempt to destroy the Jewish people that did not succeed” nearly 2,500 years ago, stressing that “today there is an attempt by Persia’s heir, Iran, to destroy the state of the Jews.” “They say this as clearly as possible and print it in black and white in their newspapers.”
However, this time Israel has its own territory and an army that protects its territory, Netanyahu said. Putin noted that those events had taken place “in the fifth century BC,” added that “we now live in a different world” and suggested discussing the actual up-to-date problems in the region.
Thenm on Frday, Putin met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after which the two held a joint press conference following the latest meeting between the two in Moscow. Below are some of the highlights courtesy of Sputnik:
Vladimir Putin on bilateral cooperation
"Today we have had 6 meetings on the highest level. The atmosphere was very constructive," President Putin told reporters. The two presidents discussed economic issues, cooperation in the humanitarian sphere. Russia is considering Turkey as key partner and Moscow is ready to develop political dialogue with Ankara at highest level, President Vladimir Putin said Friday.
"We can say with certainty that our countries have returned to the path of authentic multi-faceted partnership," Putin said at a news conference following expanded talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Moscow. "I'd like to emphasize that we view Turkey as our key partner. We are ready to maintain active political dialogue at the highest level," Putin said.
Vladimir Putin on Russian tourists security in Turkey
Russia’s relevant agencies have been ordered to ensure security of Russian tourists in Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday. "The relevant agencies were ordered to intensify the elaboration of issues of ensuring the security of Russian tourists, who are yet again showing interest in holidaying at Turkish resorts," Putin said after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Putin on energy cooperation
Russia expects that the project to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu, will soon receive the status of a so-called strategic investment, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday. "We expect that in the near future the Akkuyu nuclear power plant will be given the status of a strategic investment," Putin said at a press conference following the Russian-Turkish talks. "We also agreed to create joint investment fund. Energy is one of our prioritites," the president added.
Russia and Turkey agreed construction of the Blue Stream pipeline. European partners can participate in this project if they want to, the president noted.
Putin on the situation in Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he discussed with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the situation in Syria, the sides noted the need to join efforts in the fight against terrorism. "Much attention was paid to the situation in the Middle East, to Syria in particular during an exchange of opinions on the current international issues. The sides called for joining efforts of the international community in the fight against terrorism," Putin said after the meeting.
According to the Russian president, the countries agreed to cooperate actively in the fight against terror. "We agreed with our Turkish colleagues to actively cooperate in the fight against terrorist groups, first of all Daesh, by working together via military and security services," he added.
The ceasefire in Syria is generally being observed thanks to the coordinated efforts of Russia, Turkey and Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. "Due to the coordinated actions of Russia, Turkey and Iran, the ceasefire in Syria is generally being observed, the level of violence has decreased significantly," Putin said after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Moreover, Vladimir Putin did not rule out possible involvement of the United States in joint efforts on the settlement of the Syrian crisis.
Erdogan on bilateral cooperation
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan thanked Putin for hospitality. Erdogan said that Turkey had completed the process of normalization of relations with Russia during his meeting with Vladimir Putin.
"We managed to overcome provocative actions and all issues. Much work was done to normalize our relations. We think that there is a noticeable shift in our relations. I think that we completely the process of normalization as a result of our meeting today," Erdogan said after the meeting.
According to the Turkish president, the talks in Moscow earlier in the day confirmed the intention to intensify cooperation. "Even if we do not agree on all issues, we keep all channels of communications open, as a result of the establishment of mutual trust we shall continue strengthening cooperation," Erdogan said.
Turkish presdient also said that he hopes that Russia will remove all economic sanctions against Turkey. "We can also improve trade by providing payments in our national currencies," Erdogan told reporters.
Erdogan on situation in Syria
"We have also talked about Syria," Erdogan said. The two presidents discussed what can be done to resolve the Syrian conflict as well as other military conflicts (for example Nagorno-Karabakh conflict). "We believe that all problems in Syria should be resolved," Turkish president said. Our communications channels are opened for discussion, Erdogan noted.
Erdogan expressed his condolences once again to the family of Russian diplonat Karlov killed in Turkey.