HANNOVER, Germany, April 24 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Sunday safe zones in Syria for migrants are a good idea, but differ on the steps needed to implement them.
Obama, in Germany for a two-day visit to speak with Merkel on world issues, said both agree that safe zones would have to be controlled by moderate opposition in Syria. How they get there may be a bit more tricky.
Merkel insists her proposal for safe zones in Syria is consistent with international efforts to bring peace to the country. The United States and other German allies have previously dismissed the idea of a ground-based military intervention in Syria to protect civilians. After meeting with Obama, Merkel said her proposal wouldn't require outside intervention.
Merkel endorses the creation of areas that could provide safe havens for the thousands of migrants fleeing the violence and would improve access to humanitarian aid. She told reporters Sunday she considers the safe zones part of the ongoing negotiations over a deteriorating cease-fire and political transition.
Obama, during a press conference with Merkel on Sunday, said their discussions focused on global security issues. That includes the "commitment to training Afghan security forces and supporting a sovereign, secure and united Afghanistan." They also discussed Russia and the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.
"With regard to Russia and the separatists it supports in Ukraine, it's clear that they've violated just about every commitment they made in the Minsk agreement," Obama said. "Instead of withdrawing from eastern Ukraine, Russian forces continue to operate there, training separatists and helping to coordinate attacks."
The United States and Germany are in "absolute agreement" they won't allow the borders of Europe "to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun," Obama said.
"We will continue to work with the [International Monetary Fund] and other partners to provide Ukraine with critical financial support as it pursues economic and anti-corruption reforms. We discussed the issue of how best to assist Ukraine as it defends itself, and we agreed that sanctions on Russia need to remain fully in force until Russia complies fully with its obligations.
Regarding the IS, Obama said Germany and the United States remain united in their determination to destroy "this barbaric organization." He said he thanked Merkel for her strong support as a member of the international coalition that is working in Iraq.
"Germany has taken the important step of equipping Kurdish forces in Iraq, and Germany is preparing to lead the training mission of local forces in Erbil. Germany is a close partner in combating the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, which was the focus of a special session of the U.N. Security Council that I chaired last fall. And under Angela's leadership, Germany is moving ahead with new legislation to prevent fighters from traveling to and from Syria and Iraq."
Obama also said he looked forward to Merkel's assessment of how Europe and the IMF can work with the new Greek government to find a way to return Greece to sustainable growth within the Euro Zone, "where growth is critical to both the United States and the global economy."
Obama said North Korea's most recent actions -- launching a ballistic missile from a submarine Saturday -- were provocative. He gave little credence to any new overture of peace from Pyongyang, the Wall Street Journal reported.
If Pyongyang appears serious about denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, then the United States would consider engaging, Obama said.
"That's not something that happens based on a press release in the wake of a series of provocative behaviors," he said. "They're going to have to do better than that."
Obama said he does not envy Merkel's lack of term limits like those in the United States.
"I do not envy Angela Merkel for not having term limits," he said. "I have come to appreciate, at least in the United States, the wisdom of our founders. I think it's healthy for a big, diverse country like ours to have some turnover. To use a phrase from basketball, to have some fresh legs come in."
The president has made similar pronouncements before. But the constitutional limits on the American presidency were all the more striking as he stood next to Merkel at the trade fair in Hannover. Merkel has been German chancellor since 2005 and is reportedly considering a campaign for a fourth term in 2017, USA Today reported.
The conversation during Obama's two-day trip is expected to turn to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, which is aimed at making it easier and cheaper for companies on both sides of the Atlantic to do business and provide a boost to the global economy amid persistent, sluggish growth, supporters say.
But there is fierce opposition to the trade agreement in Germany — Europe's largest economy and its most important political voice. TTIP critics say the agreement will erode consumer and environmental protections.
Some 35,000 people marched in Hannover Saturday against the TTIP, which would cover more than 800 million people.
The president officially opened the Hannover Messe on Sunday, considered the world's leading and largest trade fair for industry technology. More than 6,500 exhibitors and 200,000 visitors from 70 countries are expected, Voice of America reported.
White House officials said Hannover Messe shows the importance of United States-German collaboration on issues like trade and commerce.
Obama traveled to Germany on Sunday after visiting Britain where he discussed similar issues, including trade, played a round of golf with British Prime Minister David Cameron and gave a controversial speech in that country's debate over whether to stay or leave the European Union, USA Today reported. Britain will vote on the issue June 23.