BERLIN (Agencies): NATO is at least as essential today as it was during the Cold War, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday, renewing a pledge to keep raising Germany’s defense spending and arguing that it is important to keep Turkey in the alliance. Merkel told the German parliament before a NATO summit in London next week that “Europe cannot defend itself alone at the moment; we rely on this trans-Atlantic alliance.” “The preservation of NATO is in our very own interest today, more strongly than during the Cold War — or at least as strongly as during the Cold War,” she said. Merkel added that it’s “right for us to work for this alliance and take on more responsibility.” French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent public criticism of NATO — notably a perceived lack of U.S. leadership, concerns about Turkey since it invaded northern Syria without warning its allies, and the need for Europe to take on more security responsibilities — has shaken the alliance. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized alliance members for not spending enough on defense, and in the past has called NATO “obsolete.”  NATO members in 2014 agreed to “aim to move toward” increasing defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product by 2024. The U.S. has been particularly critical of defense spending in Germany, which has Europe’s biggest economy.

Four dead, 16 missing after failed Mediterranean crossing

MELILLA (Reuters) - Four migrants have died and up to 16 more are missing after trying to cross into Europe from North Africa on a small raft, Spain’s coastguard said on Wednesday. Rescuers saved 58 people from the raft, which was found drifting around 37 miles off the coast of Morocco on Tuesday night. Three bodies were recovered from the water and another migrant died after being taken to shore, a spokeswoman for the coastguard said. Sea-borne migration to Europe has dropped sharply since peaking in 2015 but thousands still attempt the dangerous Mediterranean crossing every year, looking to escape poverty and conflict in their home countries. The latest group was brought to Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, where a Reuters photographer saw survivors being helped ashore and given medical assistance by the Red Cross. Wrapped in thermal blankets, some of the migrants appeared to be in a state of shock after their ordeal. European and Spanish authorities have deployed boats and a plane in the search for a further 16 people who are believed to have been on the raft. They are also searching for a separate craft carrying 78 migrants that is believed to have set off from Morocco on Tuesday night. Before Wednesday’s deaths, at least 1,136 migrants had already died or gone missing at sea this year after trying to make the crossing, according to the International Organisation for Migration.