BERLIN : Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that Germany had serious differences with the United States over privacy issues amid a bitter spying row but stressed the enduring strength of transatlantic ties.
Striking a conciliatory tone, Merkel said the only way to get past the deep rift between the NATO allies was through “continued dialogue”, adding she was committed to working on the relationship.
“We have a very solid and deep partnership with the United States of America which is based on shared values,” she said at her traditional pre-summer holiday press conference, which lasted nearly two hours and featured repeated questions on the spying scandal.
Merkel, who spoke by telephone with US President Barack Obama on the issue Tuesday, noted that there were fundamental “differences of opinion” between Berlin and Washington on “security and the protection of personal data”.
“But that doesn’t change the fact that the United States of America is our most important ally with which we work very closely within NATO. Particularly for the security of Germany, this cooperation is of crucial importance.”
She said that Britain also shared the US emphasis on security over privacy protections while Germany “has another view of the matter” but said she believed these differences could “in time” be bridged.
Revelations by fugitive US intelligence agent Edward Snowden last year that Washington had conducted intensive spying operations in Germany, including eavesdropping on Merkel’s mobile phone, deeply strained bilateral ties and infuriated the chancellor.
The issue erupted again this month when two German alleged double agents working for US intelligence were unmasked.
Merkel had faced intense political pressure to respond to what many Germans called a humiliating violation of national sovereignty until her government took the extraordinary step last week of demanding that the CIA station chief in Germany leave the country.
The US and Germany confirmed that the man flew out on Thursday, one week after Berlin issued the expulsion order.
Asked whether Berlin would be willing to consider offering a safe haven to Snowden in exchange for further information on US intelligence activities on German soil, Merkel reiterated that he did not meet the legal qualifications for asylum.