US President Barack Obama today invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington in an effort to mend fences after a diplomatic crisis provoked by revelations of US eavesdropping on her mobile phone.
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 reacted furiously last year to revelations that the National Security Agency had been listening in on her mobile phone calls, telling Obama in an October telephone call that such action would be a “breach of trust” between two allies.
The reports in US and European media outlets, sourced from documents leaked by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, damaged US relations with key allies and were a political and personal embarrassment for Obama.
Washington never confirmed that the eavesdropping had taken place, but implicitly confirmed reports by the careful formulation of its response to questions from reporters.
The White House said that US spies were not currently monitoring Merkel’s phone and would not do so in the future, but would not comment on past surveillance 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.
Obama is reportedly considering changes to the rules on surveillance of foreign leaders as part of a package of NSA reforms.
The full White House readout of the Merkel phone call:
“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.
“The leaders noted the full agenda for 2014, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations and NATO Summit, and looked forward to working closely together to advance our shared interests.
“The President also extended an invitation to the Chancellor to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time in the coming months.”
Late on Wednesday, Merkel’s spokesman in Berlin, Steffen Seifert, said she had accepted Obama’s invitation for her to visit Washington, but like the White House did not offer a date.