Merkel has frosty visit to White House
Donald Trump seemed to refuse to shake hands with Angela Merkel yesterday as a first meeting between the two leaders, which was postponed from Tuesday because of snow, got off to a distinctly frosty start.
The German chancellor and US president posed for the press in the Oval Office, and photographers could be heard calling for the two to shake hands. Mrs Merkel turned and smiled at her host, asking him: "Do you want to have a handshake?"
But Mr Trump, who had appeared to hold hands with Theresa May, the British prime minister, when they walked together during her White House visit in January, looked down at the floor and avoided all eye contact with his guest.
Mrs Merkel grimaced slightly but soon brushed off the awkward incident and began the task of attempting to build a new transatlantic partnership, quipping in their later press conference that the two leaders "will work together hand in hand".
The US president reassured her that his administration would "respect historic institutions", amid fears in Europe that he could scale back US military support for Nato, but he insisted that allies "must pay what they owe".
"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 defence," he said.
She responded by saying that Germany needed to meet Nato spending goals.
The two agreed on the need for co-operating in the fight against Isil terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Libya and the peace process in Ukraine.
Mrs Merkel stressed the importance of improving relations with Russia and Mr Trump was thought to have sought ideas from her on how to deal with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
She also delivered a staunch defence of globalisation, and said she hoped the US and the EU could resume discussions on a trade agreement.
For his part, Mr Trump rejected accusations his "America First" agenda was isolationist and said he was only attempting to improve trade deals to protect US interests, rather than pull back from the world entirely.
A press question about his supposed isolationism clearly angered him, as he shot back at the reporter: "I don't know what newspaper you're reading, but I guess that would be an example of fake news."
Attempting to strike a positive tone, Mrs Merkel said it had been "much better to talk to one another than about one another".
The visit represented an opportunity for the two leaders to reset their early relationship.
On the campaign trail, Mr Trump called Mrs Merkel's migration policy "catastrophic", saying she "should be ashamed of herself" for "ruining" Germany. He also lashed out at 'Time' magazine when it named Mrs Merkel "Person of the Year" in 2015 instead of him.
She has been a strident critic of his Muslim travel ban and the plan to build a border wall with Mexico and took it upon herself to explain the Geneva Convention to him.
The German chancellor enjoyed a warm friendship with Barack Obama and was his closest global partner. She had also worked well with George W Bush before him.
Mrs Merkel had prepared carefully for the meeting, watching Mr Trump's speeches, speaking to people who have met him and even studying a 1990 'Playboy' interview with the New York billionaire.
The visit was a tightrope walk for the German chancellor, between building an effective partnership built on strong economic and security cooperation - especially in the context of Russia's new-found bullishness - and representing her values and those of the German people.
She is in a battle to win re-election for a fourth term later this year in Germany, where Mr Trump's historically low popularity ratings are on a par with Vladimir Putin.
"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," Mrs Merkel said.
Mr Trump said he "very seldom" regrets anything he tweets, brushing off questions about his claims without evidence that his predecessor, Democrat Mr Obama, wiretapped him during last year's presidential campaign.
Mr Trump said: "At least we have something in common," apparently referring to reports during Mr Obama's presidency that the US bugged her phone. Congressional leaders from both political parties say they do not believe Mr Trump was wiretapped. (© Daily Telegraph, London)