German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) meets with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington D.C., on Thursday. Pool photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo
July 15 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joe Biden said they were united against Russian aggression related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline while remaining at odds on some details of the project during her final visit to the White House Thursday.
Biden said that "good friends can disagree," while stating the two leaders shared the belief that Russia should not be able to use energy to blackmail or otherwise pressure its neighbors including Ukraine.Biden said that "good friends can disagree" as he said, while stating the two leaders shared the belief that Russia should not be able to use energy to blackmail or otherwise pressure its neighbors including Ukraine.
"We stand together and will continue to stand together, to defend our eastern flank allies at NATO against Russian aggression," he said. "And while I reiterated my concerns about Nord Stream 2, Chancellor Merkel and I are absolutely united in our conviction that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbors."
In May, the Bien administration sanctioned Russian companies and vessels participating in the construction of the Russia-to-Germany pipeline while exempting a German company and its chief executive from the punitive measures.
Merkel said the two had "come to different assessments as to what this project entails" but said Germany remained ready to react "should Russia not respect this right of Ukraine that it has as a transit country."
"Our idea is and remains that Ukraine remains a transit country for natural gas, that Ukraine just as any other country in the world has a right to territorial sovereignty," she said.
The leaders also agreed on a climate and energy partnership which the White House said will "strengthen climate ambition and deepen our collaboration on the policies and sustainable technologies needed to accelerate the global net-zero future."
Biden said Merkel brought up a ban on travel from Germany to the United States stating that he had asked his COVID-19 team to determine when it can be lifted.
"It's in the process now. And I'll be able to answer that question to you within the next several days, what is likely to happen," he said.
Merkel said she understood it is important to reflect on such a decision to ensure that it is sustainable.
"It is clearly not sensible to have to take it back after only a few days. So I have every confidence in the American COVID team," she said.
Thursday's visit came as Merkel, Germany's chancellor since 2005, will retire from the post after the nation's federal election on Sept. 26, which will produce a new leader.
Merkel has also established herself as one of the stabilizing forces within the European Union and setting policy on the continent.
Biden joked that Merkel "knows the Oval Office as well as I do" as she has served alongside for U.S. presidents and added that he would miss her friendship and leadership.
"On a personal note, I must tell you I will miss seeing you at our summits," Biden said. "I truly will."
Merkel repeatedly referred to Biden as "Dear Joe" throughout the press conference and said that she and Biden had "a very friendly exchange."
Earlier Thursday, the German leader participated in a working breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris before her meeting with Biden.
Biden then hosted Merkel for a small dinner with German supporters and backers of the bilateral relationship between Germany and the United States, the White House said.