(CNN)President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting in Washington on Thursday in what is likely the European leader’s final appearance at the White House before she steps down from her long-held position this fall.
The ongoing dispute between the United States and Germany over a Russian gas pipeline, called Nord Stream 2, is expected to play out between the two leaders in the Oval Office on Thursday, according to senior administration officials. Climate change, Covid-19 vaccines, Russian cyber attacks, Ukraine and shoring up their democracies are also topics on the agenda, an official said.
Upon her arrival in the Oval Office, Biden called Merkel a “personal friend, as well as a friend to the United States.”
“We have a full agenda ahead of us. We’re going to be meeting alone for a while and we’re going to bring in some of our key staff. And one of the things that I want to talk about is the enduring friendship the chancellor has been so responsible for nailing down, and making sure it continues. And we’re ready to dive in. The cooperation between the United States and Germany has been strong, and we hope to continue that and I’m confident we will.”
The visit comes just three months before Merkel leaves her role as chancellor of Germany in October, after having served in the position for more than 15 years. Elections to replace the “chancellor of the free world” are in September.
Biden is the fourth US president with whom she’s interacted. And on Thursday, Merkel said this marks her 23rd visit to Washington since becoming chancellor.
Administration officials have been consistent in describing the visit as a “working” session that is forward looking, despite Merkel’s limited time remaining atop the German government. But after a decade-and-a-half of visiting Washington, her final trip to meet a US president is a moment to reflect on her legacy.
Merkel started the day with a breakfast hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris at the Naval Observatory. She is the first foreign leader Harris has hosted at her residence since moving in.
They discussed “domestic and international issues including current challenges, history between the two counties and future endeavors,” according to a White House official.
Following the news that flooding has led to several deaths in Germany, Merkel called the floods a “catastrophe.”
“Here in Washington, my thoughts are also always with the people in our homeland,” Merkel said Thursday morning. “Peaceful places are going through a catastrophe in these hours, one can say a tragedy. Heavy rainfall and floods are very inadequate words to describe this — it is therefore really a catastrophe.”
Biden and Merkel met one-on-one in the Oval Office before an expanded session with aides and a concluding joint press conference. Biden and his wife will host Merkel and her husband for dinner at the White House with a “range of individuals” who have been supporters of Germany. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, is expected to attend the dinner, which will come hours after he meets with former President Donald Trump at his New Jersey golf club.
Merkel will also receive an honorary degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies while in the states — marking her 18th honorary degree so far.
Officials said the leaders will unveil a “Washington Declaration” that spells out a joint vision for cooperating on difference policy challenges, and a shared commitment to human rights and the results democratic lea
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