Mon, Jun 08, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Obama aims to heal wounds on trip to Germany

PUBLIC DISPLAY:Analysts said that Obama and Merkel needed to coordinate their strategies and to show unity, both to their publics at home, and to the Russian president

AP, ELMAU, Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and US President Barack Obama, second left, are welcomed by local residents in traditional costumes during their visit to the village of Kruen, southern Germany, yesterday.

Photo: AP

US President Barack Obama is aiming to show unity with Western allies on global challenges during an overnight trip to Germany, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel amid enduring anti-US sentiment in her country over US spying programs.

Obama and Merkel planned to open his visit yesterday with a public display of friendliness, delivering remarks about the US-German alliance before they stroll through the picturesque alpine village of Kruen to sample the Bavarian food and sights.

The two plan to meet privately afterward at the nearby site of the two-day summit of the G7 leading industrial nations to coordinate their agenda before joining the leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan.

As the president stepped off Air Force One after an overnight flight from Washington, he was greeted by a group children and adults in traditional Bavarian outfits.

He then boarded the presidential helicopter for a flight through the mountains to meet Merkel.

The G7 meeting at the Schloss Elmau resort is expected to be dominated by discussions of the West’s response to the clashes between Ukraine and pro-Russian forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was ousted from the group last year over his aggressive moves on the former Soviet state.

Also high on the agenda are the global economy, terrorism and trade as Obama negotiates separate pacts across the Pacific and Atlantic.

Obama is closer to Merkel than most heads of state, although their relationship has been tested in the past couple of years, particularly after it emerged that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped Merkel’s cellphone. The revelation was particularly chilling in Germany, with its oppressive history of secret government surveillance.

The spying controversy has grown in recent weeks amid reports that the Germany Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) might have helped the US spy on European companies and officials as long ago as 2008.

Merkel’s chief of staff oversees the agency, and the opposition Social Democrats — who are struggling in opinion polls — have used it to put her office under pressure.

“While we tend to view a lot of the impact of the NSA revelations in Europe as subsided, they have not subsided in Germany,” Center for Strategic and International Studies Europe Program director Heather Conley said. “This issue is being used in multiple ways to increase, I think, anti-Americanism in Germany and to weaken the chancellor.”

Germans are also looking to future US relations beyond Obama’s presidency, with presidential hopeful Jeb Bush planning to start a six-day European trip with a speech in Berlin tomorrow to the economic council of the Christian Democratic Union, the conservative party led by Merkel.

In their last meeting, in February at the White House, Obama called Merkel “my close friend and partner.”

Merkel addressed him as “dear Barack” while acknowledging tensions over the spying programs they are still working to overcome.

“There are still different assessments on individual issues there, but if we look at the sheer dimension of the terrorist threat, we are more than aware of the fact that we need to work together very closely,” Merkel said.

Obama said there “was no doubt” the spying revelations damaged impressions of the US in Germany and that he has been trying to restore confidence.

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