Iran and Huawei top agenda as Pompeo meets Merkel for 45 minutes in Berlin

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 31: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Photo by Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty Images)

Huawei and Iran are two of the key issues on the table as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo made a half-day stop in Germany on Friday.

The secretary of state first met with German foreign minister Heiko Mass and then held a 45-minute meeting with chancellor Angela Merkel. It is Pompeo’s first visit to Berlin since taking office over a year ago.

“The world is in a state of great unrest,” Merkel said in her brief joint appearance with Pompeo before their meeting, listing Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Ukraine. “The USA is and remains Germany’s most important partner outside of Europe.”

Maas, speaking at his earlier press conference with Pompeo Friday morning, said the two countries “are currently going in different ways" on Iran. The German foreign minister added that the US and Germany "ultimately have the same goals," which include Iran not acquiring nuclear weapons.

Germany is keen to mediate in the Middle East as tensions between Iran and the US ratchet up. The US recently sent a carrier strike group and will deploy about 1,500 troops to the region. Berlin sent an envoy to Iran last week in an attempt to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Trump pulled out of in May 2018.

Iran told envoy Jens Plötner that it had run out of patience with the US, and said that France, Germany, and the UK should still honour their commitment to the deal by trading with the country, according to Reuters.

Pompeo and Maas also tackled the thorny topic of Huawei. The US has been pressuring allies to ban equipment from the Chinese company from their telecoms networks over what it says are spying concerns.

Pompeo said in Berlin that Germany would make its own decisions about Huawei, but warned that the US may withhold national security data if it lacked confidence in the security of German networks.

Trump will also tell the UK during his upcoming visit that Washington may refuse to share intel if Huawei is not banned from its 5G networks, according to a Financial Times report.

Germany said in April that the Chinese tech giant would be allowed to compete in the auction to build its 5G technology network. Jochen Homann from Germany’s Federal Network Agency told the Financial Times that “no equipment supplier, including Huawei, should or may be specifically excluded.”

Germany’s NATO spending — Trump’s ongoing gripe with Berlin — will also be discussed on Friday. Before leaving on the trip, Pompeo told journalists that “the president is not satisfied” with Germany’s financial contributions to NATO, something that has been a bone of contention between the two countries since Trump took office.

“They’re an important, big economy inside of the EU, and we need them fully engaged and devoting adequate resources to the protection of Europe,” Pompeo said.

While Merkel avoided mentioning the US president by name during her Harvard University commencement speech on Thursday, her address was regarded as an outspoken criticism of Trump’s policies and world view. She urged students to stand up against protectionism and nationalism, tear down “walls of ignorance,” and to “never describe lies as truth and truth as lies.”