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U.S., Germany vow cooperation despite espionage spat

Jul. 13, 2014 - 12:26PM   |  
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier shake hands as they arrive July 13 to address the media after a bilateral meeting during talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program,in Vienna. (Jim Bourg / Getty Images)
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VIENNA — The United States and Germany put a brave face on an escalating espionage dispute, stressing on Sunday the importance of their cooperation to solving several global crises but offering little indication they’ve fully mended ties.

After a meeting on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry each extolled the value of the two NATO allies’ work together on issues such as Iran and Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Steinmeier directly addressed the difficult time in the key trans-Atlantic partnership, without explicitly mentioning the reports of two German government officials recruited by American intelligence. The accounts have rocked relations, coming on the heels of revelations about widespread U.S. spying in Germany.

“Relations between Germany and the U.S. are necessary and indispensable, and that’s for both of our sides,” Steinmeier told reporters in German. Still, he acknowledged the recent “difficulties” and urged that relations “revive on the basis of trust and mutual respect.”

Kerry said their discussions touched on Iran, Iraq and violence in the Middle East, where Steinmeier is going Monday.

“The relationship between the United States and Germany is a strategic one and enormous political operation,” Kerry said. “We are great friends. And we will continue to work together in the kind of spirit we exhibited today.”

Kerry, mustering up his best German, then offered Germany “good luck” in Sunday’s World Cup soccer final against Argentina. But he made no mention, even indirectly, of the two countries’ espionage troubles.

The most significant consequence of the spy reports was Germany’s demand three days ago for the CIA chief in Berlin to leave the country.

That followed published accounts over the last two weeks that American intelligence recruited two Germans — a man who worked at the country’s foreign intelligence agency and a defense ministry employee.

Those reports only added to growing friction and frustration over the last year since information leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden suggested U.S. interception of Internet traffic in Germany and eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone calls

Washington has tried to bury the most recent dispute, speaking little about the substance of the allegations in public and trying to downplay much of the matter as standard intelligence procedures.

That hasn’t played well in Germany, a country that prizes the sanctity of personal information and bears deep suspicion of government intrusion given its history of Nazi-era abuses and by East Germany’s Stasi security service.

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