BERLIN – President Barack Obama left Europe on Friday urging U.S. allies to keep their relationships strong – and to keep an open mind about President-elect Donald Trump.
In his final meeting as president with five key European allies, Obama praised the importance of NATO and other multilateral organizations, predicting that they will improve the quality of life for member nations “even at a moment of great change.”
Obama urged the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Great Britain to keep on “seeking solutions to common challenges with the incoming U.S. administration, on the basis of the core values that define the United States and Europe as open democracies,” according to a White House statement.
Shortly after the meeting, Obama boarded Air Force One for a flight to Lima, Peru, for a summit of Pacific nations.
While in Europe for the last three days, Obama tried to assuage concerns of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been cautious in expressing intent to work with Trump. After a day of meetings with Obama on Thursday, she told reporters that she planned to cooperate with the president-elect on the basis of shared values, including respect for the rule of law and the “dignity of all people.”
In the larger European gathering on Friday, other leaders also spoke of their worries, according to a senior administration official, including “grave concern” about the humanitarian situation in rebel-controlled Aleppo, Syria, where months of government bombings have killed hundreds of civilians. They were in agreement that Syrian President Bashar Assad should stop attacks against his own people in that city, and that Assad’s backers in Russia and Iran should pull back as well.
European diplomats are worried about whether Trump will stand with them in that resolve or instead yield to the plans of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom Trump showed some affinity during the presidential campaign. After Trump’s election, Assad mused that Trump might be “a natural ally” in his fight against forces that oppose him.
The leaders also agreed that they should keep sanctions in place against Russia until Putin pulls back on his aggressive moves in neighboring Ukraine. It is not yet clear whether Trump intends to keep the pressure on Putin for that invasion.
An honor guard saw Obama off on his sixth and final presidential departure from Germany. He walked down a red carpet to his plane and set out for Peru, his final foreign summit as president.
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