Harris to host Merkel before chancellor’s talks with Biden

WASHINGTON — In a meeting intended to reflect the importance of U.S.-German ties, Kamala Harris will hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the vice president’s residence Thursday, the first time she has hosted a foreign leader at the Naval Observatory since taking office.

At their breakfast meeting, Harris intends to emphasize the need for the allies to confront an array of global challenges, from the coronavirus pandemic and climate change to the threats posed by Russia and China.

“It underscores the special nature of this partnership and America’s special role in the world that she is able to host her at her home,” said Phil Gordon, the vice president’s deputy national security advisor, told The Associated Press.

Harris and Merkel also will discuss the need to promote and defend democracy at home, “acknowledging, frankly, that we face challenges in our own countries and we need to talk about that,” Gordon said.

Also expected to come up is the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the role of NATO and Germany in maintaining stability in Afghanistan in the aftermath.

Merkel will visit the White House later Thursday to meet with President Joe Biden. That session is expected to cover many of the same issues, in addition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which his administration opposes.

Harris and Merkel are the first women to serve in their respective positions, and the chancellor highlighted Harris’ background when offering congratulations after Biden’s election victory in November.

“As the first woman in this office and the child of two immigrants, she is an inspiration for many people, an example of the opportunities of America,” Merkel said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know her.”

Merkel, after nearly 16 years in office, is retiring in the coming months after deciding not to seek a fifth term.