Obama invites Merkel to DC after phone tapping dispute
By Stephen Collinson, AFP
January 10, 2014, 12:17 am TWN
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington on Wednesday, hoping to mend fences after a dispute provoked by revelations of U.S. 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 had been listening in on her cell phone, 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 U.S. relations with key allies and were a political and personal embarrassment for Obama.
Washington never confirmed the eavesdropping, but it implicitly gave credence to the reports by the careful formulation of its response to questions from reporters.
The White House said U.S. 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.
"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 Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations and NATO Summit, and looked forward to working closely together to advance our shared interests."