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Trump, Merkel try to skirt differences

AFP-Jiji

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands after a press conference in the White House on Friday in Washington.

Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The first face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel started awkwardly on Friday and ended even more oddly, with a quip by Trump about wiretapping that left the German leader visibly bewildered.

The two leaders share different views on trade, Russia and immigration, leading to some uncomfortable moments at a joint news conference in which they took pains to downplay differences that were hard to mask.

The meeting was the first between the new U.S. president and the long-serving stateswoman, who leads Europe’s largest economy. It was seen as one that could help determine the future of the transatlantic alliance and shape their working relationship.

Though Merkel appeared relaxed, the body language between them was not especially warm.

Trump and Merkel shook hands when she arrived at the White House but did not do so in the Oval Office where she frequently leaned toward him while he stared straight ahead, sitting with his legs apart and hands together. In the Oval Office both leaders described their meeting in brief remarks to reporters as having been very good.

She began her remarks at the news conference by saying it was better to speak to each other than about each other.

“We held a conversation where we were trying to address also those areas where we disagree, but we tried to bring people together ... [and] tried to find a compromise that is good for both sides,” Merkel said.

They shook hands again at the end of the press conference and then exited the East Room together.

Near the start of the news conference, Trump pressed Merkel for Germany to meet NATO’s military spending target, and Merkel reiterated her country’s commitment to the 2 percent military spending goal.

“I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense. Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe.”

Trump also stood by unproven claims that the Obama administration tapped his phones, and expressed solidarity with a surprised Merkel, whose government charged Washington in 2013 may have been spying on her.

“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps,” Trump said to Merkel, who looked bewildered as she stared back at him from her podium.Speech

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