“I grieve for those who’ve lost their lives, we don’t know the number but it will be many, some in the basements of their houses, and some who were working as firefighters trying to bring others to safety,” Merkel said in a press conference on Thursday.
Describing the aid efforts, the German Chancellor promised that the government would help “in any way we can”.
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“These are horrific days for the people in the floodplains,” she said. “My thoughts are with you. And you can trust that every part of our state – from the federal, state and local governments – will do everything possible to save lives, avert dangers and alleviate hardship, even under the most difficult of conditions.”
“We will not leave them alone in this difficult, terrible hour and we will also help when it comes to rebuilding,” she said.
Biden expressed his condolences in view of the many fatalities in the flood disaster.
United States and Germany remain ‘close friends’
The trip is likely to be Merkel’s last visit to the White House before she steps down in September at the end of a 16-year term as German Chancellor.
After a turbulent few years for German-American relations during Donald Trump’s presidency, the visit was partly an attempt to open a new chapter and reaffirm both countries’ commitment to the transatlantic partnership.
“We are not just allies and partners, but also close friends,” said Merkel on Thursday in Washington after a detailed conversation with Biden.
Biden thanked Merkel for her “strong leadership role” over the past decade and a half.
“I know that the partnership between Germany and the United States will grow even stronger on the foundation that you helped to build,” he told her.
Merkel and Biden discussed Nord Stream 2 and the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions for people travelling from Germany to the United States. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Evan Vucci
In a ‘Washington Declaration’, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to “close bilateral cooperation in promoting peace, security and prosperity around the world”.
However, they continued to disagree over the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which Biden believes is being weaponised by Vladimir Putin.
Covid travel restrictions could be eased
Biden announced that he will probably comment on the corona-related entry restrictions for people from Germany and other European Schengen countries in the coming days, after Merkel raised the issue.
Discussions are currently being held on how the travel restrictions could be lifted soon.
“I’m waiting to hear from our people in our Covid team when that should happen,” Biden said.
Before Merkel’s return to Berlin, the U.S. President and First Lady Jill Biden held a dinner in honour of the Chancellor, which Merkel’s husband, Joachim Sauer, also attended.
Biden wrote on Twitter on Thursday evening: “It was an honour to have my dear friend, Chancellor Merkel, in the White House.”