MUNICH (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a robust defence on Saturday of Germany’s foreign trade relations and ties with Russia, urging global leaders meeting in Munich to work together to tackle the world’s problems.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

Addressing an audience including Ivanka Trump, daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump, Merkel defended plans for a new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that he has criticised.

Trump has accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia due to its reliance on Russian energy, but Merkel argued:

“If during the Cold War…we imported large amounts of Russian gas, I don’t know why times should be so much worse today that we can say: Russia remains a partner.”

“Do we want to make Russia only dependent on China?” she asked. “Is that our European interest? I don’t think so either.”

During a question and answer session, she added that it would be wrong to exclude Russia politically.

“Geostrategically, Europe can’t have an interest in cutting off all relations with Russia.”

Trump has also frequently criticised the large trade surplus that Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has with the United States and has threatened to put tariffs on German cars in return.

“We are proud of our cars and so we should be,” Merkel said, adding, however, that many were built in the United States and exported to China.

“If that is viewed as a security threat to the United States, then we are shocked,” she told the Munich Security Conference to applause from the audience.

Merkel appealed for global cooperation on a range of issues from dealing with Iran to preventing another migrant crisis.

She questioned whether the U.S. decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal and withdrawal from Syria was the best way to tackle Tehran in the region.

“The only question is how we attain our mutal goal…do we do that by terminating our agreement or by using the small amount of leverage we do have (via the nuclear deal)?” she asked “This is a tactical question.”

Responding to the question on international relations posed by the conference organisers – “The Great Puzzle: Who Will Pick Up the Pieces?” – Merkel responded to loud applause: “Only all of us together.”

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde was among those who stood up to applaud Merkel.

Reporting by Paul Carrel and John Irish; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Angus MacSwan


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