A first face-to-face meeting between US President, Donald Trump, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel attracted large media attention across the world.
In their first meeting, Trump and Merkel tried to downplay their differences, but the atmosphere was odd and – at certain points – outright tense.
Merkel and Trump have conflicting views on issues such as trade, immigration, Russia and the EU, and this was visible during their first meeting.
The German Chancellor said that: “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.”
The two leaders discussed Germany’s NATO commitment, a question that Trump promulgated during his presidential campaign. Speaking about NATO, Trump reiterated his earlier remarks by saying that US NATO allies need to pay fair share for the cost of defense.
“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 went on to mention the wiretapping controversy: “As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps,” Trump said to Merkel, who seemed baffled by his quip.
The US President probably referred to an earlier wiretapping scandal when the German government said it had information that the United States may have monitored Merkel’s mobile phone, prompting her to call Obama to demand immediate clarification.
Perhaps the most memorable detail during the meeting was Trump’s apparent refusal to shook hands with Merkel in the Oval Office. As the two leaders sat together in the Oval Office in front of TV cameras, photographers called for the two to shake hands.
The German Chancellor was heard saying: “Do you want to have a handshake?”
In response, Trump briefly turned towards her, but continued sitting with his legs apart and hands together. Merkel discretely turned backed to face the cameras and smiled.
Despite the event in the Oval Office, Trump greeted Merkel with a handshake upon her arrival at the White House, and the two shook hands again at the end of their joint press conference.