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U.S.-German Spy Dispute Prompts Pledge to Improve Relationship

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met privately yesterday for about an hour while in Vienna for negotiations overIran’s nuclear program.

“The German-American relationship is essential and indispensable and that goes for us both,” Steinmeier told reporters in the Austrian capital. “We’ll continue to work on our relationship on the basis of trust and mutual respect.”

Chancellor  Angela Merkel  renewed her objections to what she called the U.S.’s Cold War-style intelligence gathering even as she sought to prevent the dispute to get in the way of other joint projects. The U.S. and Germany have tried to find common ground over trade and  Iran ’s nuclear program.

“‘The relationship between the U.S. and  Germany  is a strategic one,’’ Kerry said in the joint statement with Steinmeier. ‘‘We have enormous political cooperation. And we are great friends.

The ministers joined counterparts from the U.K.,  France , and Iran in attempt to overcome a stalemate threatening their July 20 deadline for a long-term deal over the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear work.

Five Eyes

Their talk followed the German government’s expulsion of the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief from the American Embassy in Berlin last week. That move was prompted by two additional German probes into American spying. The U.S. tried to head off the expulsion by offering an intelligence-sharing agreement resembling one available to nations known as the Five Eyes -- the U.S., U.K.,  Canada , Australia and  New Zealand , according to a U.S. official.

Germany went forward with the expulsion anyway as authorities pursue leads to possible double agents working within the government for the U.S. The revelations have compounded anger in Germany over mass surveillance and tapping Merkel’s mobile phone.

‘‘We don’t live in the  Cold War  anymore, where everybody probably mistrusted everybody else,” Merkel told  broadcaster ZDF  on July 12. “The notion that you always have to ask yourself in close cooperation whether the one sitting across from you could be working for the others –- that’s not a basis for trust.”

Still, the German leader dismissed a suggestion that the country may scrap negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the European Union and the U.S.

“We have differing perceptions on the work of intelligence services, but other political areas like the free-trade agreement are absolutely in our interest,” Merkel said. “We work very close together with the Americans. I want that to continue.”

(Source: Bloomberg)