WASHINGTON, D.C.: United States (US) President Barack Obama invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), hoping to mend fences after a row provoked by revelations of the US eavesdropping on her cellphone.
Obama called Merkel to wish her a speedy recovery after her recent skiing injury and invited her to visit at a “mutually agreeable time in the coming months,” the White House said in a statement.
Merkel last year reacted furiously to claims the National Security Agency (NSA) had been listening in on her mobile, telling Obama in October that this would be a “breach of trust” between two allies.
Media reports of American snooping based on documents leaked by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have damaged US relations with key allies and were a political and personal embar–rassment for Obama.
Washington never confirmed the eavesdropping, but it implicitly gave credence to the reports by the careful formu–lation of its response to ques–tions from reporters.
The White House said US spies were not currently monitoring Merkel’s phone and would not do so in the future, but would not comment on past surveil–lance activity.
The invitation to Merkel comes as the White House tries to draw a line under the Snowden issue, with Obama poised to give a speech to Americans this month detailing how the NSA’s massive phone and data collection activities will be reformed.
“The president spoke to Chancellor Merkel today to wish her a speedy recovery following her injury and to congratulate her on the formation of her new cabinet,” a White House statement said.
“The leaders noted the full agenda for 2014, including the Transatlantic Trade and Invest–ment Partnership [T-TIP] nego–tiations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] Summit, and looked forward to working closely together to advance our shared interests.”
Merkel’s office confirmed in a statement that she would accept Obama’s invitation to visit the United States, but like the White House, did not offer a date.