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White House says Trump “didn’t hear” repeated calls to shake Merkel’s hand

The pair's first meeting was peppered with tense moments.

By Kate Wagner
White House says Trump “didn’t hear” reported calls to shake Merkel’s hand

The White House has denied claims that Donald Trump refused to shake Angela Merkel’s hand at their recent meeting.

Despite the photographers’ repeated calls for a handshake, and Merkel’s suggestion from a metre away, Sean Spicer told German Weekly Der Spiegel, "I don't think he heard the question".

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported Spicer’s claims as “improbable”, saying that Trump did not once look Merkel in the eye throughout the meeting.Trump’s lack of handshake, in what is typically a highly scripted event, was just one of multiple tense moments that punctuated their first time meeting.

The US president claimed Germany owed “vast sums of money to NATO” in the press conference – a statement Germany’s defence minister rebuffed.

"There is no account where debts are registered with NATO," Ursula von der Leyen said, before adding the amount spent should not be the only criteria on which Germany’s military efforts are judged.

The encounter comes in the wake of conflict at a G20 meeting in Germany after Trump’s administration refused to renew a pledge on climate change - defying the international community.

The tensions didn’t dissipate in the press conference’s lighter moments, with Trump attempting to joke about the German wiretapping scandal in 2013.

"As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps," he said.

The German Chancellor did not appear to be amused by what was considered a significant “breach of trust”, although Obama assured Merkel at the time that "the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor" her communications.

The meeting also involved discussions about the conflict in Afghanistan, fighting ISIS and resolving Ukraine’s conflict – all of which are issues that require keen cooperation from both countries.