TIME Germany

U.S. and Germany Make Nice Amid Espionage Claims

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a press conference, after talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program, in Vienna, Austria on July 13, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a press conference, after talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program, in Vienna, Austria on July 13, 2014. Jim Bourg—AP

"We have enormous political cooperation and we are great friends," says Secretary of State John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the U.S. and Germany “great friends” on Sunday, playing down the tensions surrounding recent allegations that the U.S. has been spying on Berlin.

Kerry and German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met in Vienna to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, but used the occasion to reiterate their commitment to the U.S-German alliance as the espionage scandal that has battered the relationship between the two countries in recent weeks continues to reverberate.

Germany ordered the CIA’s station chief in Berlin to leave the country last week, after the arrest of a German man earlier in July on suspicion of spying on behalf of the U.S. government.

Although Kerry did not explicitly address the espionage claims, he stressed the importance of the U.S.-German partnership after noting that he and Steinmeier discussed ongoing conflicts in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

“Let me emphasize the relationship between the United States and Germany is a strategic one,” Kerry said in a statement alongside Steinmeier. “We have enormous political cooperation and we are great friends. And we will continue to work together in the kind of spirit that we exhibited today in a very thorough discussion.”

Steinmeier said the two countries “want to work on reviving this relationship, on a foundation of trust and mutual respect,” Reuters reports. He mentioned that the effort applies to “all the difficulties that have arisen in our bilateral relations in recent weeks,” adding that the U.S.-German alliance will strengthen attempts to resolve issues in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iran.

Both Steinmeier and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have highlighted the necessity of continuing Germany’s partnership with the U.S. despite recent setbacks, but Merkel said in a Saturday interview with public German broadcaster ZDF that the two countries have completely different notions of the role of intelligence.

The Chancellor expressed hope that the reaction in Germany would persuade the U.S. not to spy on its allies. “We want this cooperation based on partnership,” she said in the interview. “But we have different ideas, and part of this is that we don’t spy on each other.”

TIME international relations

Merkel Says U.S. Spy Allegations Are Serious, If True

Angela Merkel, Li Keqiang
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Monday, July 7, 2014. Andy Wong—AP

Merkel said if the allegations are true, it would be a "clear contradiction" of trust between the allies

(BEIJING) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that if reports that a German intelligence employee spied for the United States are proven true, that would be a “clear contradiction” of trust between the allies.

The comments marked Merkel’s first public remarks on the arrest last week of a 31-year-old man suspected of spying for foreign intelligence services.

German prosecutors say the man allegedly handed over 218 documents between 2012 and 2014. German media, without naming sources, have reported he was an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who says he sold his services to the U.S.

“If the reports are correct it would be a serious case,” Merkel said at a news conference in Beijing with the Chinese premier. “If the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners.'”

Germany has been stepping up pressure on the United States to clarify the situation. Germany’s Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador Friday to help clarify the case.

The issue threatens to strain German-U.S. relations again after earlier reports that the National Security Agency spied on Germans, including on Merkel’s cellphone.

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