By Jeff Mason and Andreas Rinke
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The first face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel started awkwardly on Friday and ended even more oddly, with a quip by Trump about wiretapping that left the German leader visibly bewildered.
The two leaders share different views on trade, Russia and immigration, leading to some uncomfortable moments at a joint news conference on Friday in which they took pains to downplay differences that were hard to mask.
Friday’s meeting was the first between the new U.S. president and the long-serving stateswoman, who leads Europe’s largest economy. It was seen as one that could help determine the future of the transatlantic alliance and shape their working relationship.
Though Merkel appeared relaxed, the body language between them was not especially warm.
Trump and Merkel shook hands when she arrived at the White House but did not do so in the Oval Office where she frequently leaned towards him while he stared straight ahead, sitting with his legs apart and hands together. In the Oval Office both leaders described their meeting in brief remarks to reporters as having been very good.
She began her remarks at the news conference by saying it was better to speak to each other than about each other.
“We held a conversation where we were trying to address also those areas where we disagree, but we tried to bring people together … (and) tried to find a compromise that is good for both sides,” Merkel said.