US relations unharmed by Wikileaks disclosures: Germany

Monday, November 29, 2010

BERLIN - The publication of confidential and critical US diplomatic cables has not harmed the relationship between Germany and the US, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Monday.

“We cooperate closely and amicably with the US government. And that will remain the case,” Westerwelle said, echoing earlier comments by a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The cables from Berlin included scathing remarks about senior members of government by US Ambassador Philip Murphy. Embassy briefs said Westerwelle’s foreign policy thoughts were “short on substance”, and referred to his “aggressive temperament”.

Of Merkel, the ambassador wrote, “Avoids risk, not very creative.”

Westerwelle said it was “regrettable”, that whistleblower website WikiLeaks had published confidential reports from US diplomats around the world.

He said US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called him Friday to express her regret over the imminent release of the confidential documents. He said he made it clear he did not expect an apology.

“Anything more is neither required nor appropriate,” Westerwelle said.

“This is illegally obtained data which is now being used to make money,” he said, strongly criticising the fact that the reports’ publication could endanger lives.

Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer said the leaks were a “huge embarrassment”, in comments to DPA during a trip to Israel, adding that it was “irresponsible” to publish secret reports pertaining to Iran and the Gulf states.

The German government refused to comment on the contents of the leaks and the criticism of German government members expressed within them.

Meanwhile, former US ambassador to Germany John Kornblum said the publication was a breach of diplomatic trust.

“Diplomacy … must work on the basis of trust, and if that trust is broken, as is now the case, then of course you need to start back at zero,” Kornblum told public broadcaster ZDF.

Kornblum said that, in future, international diplomacy would have to be conducted differently.

“The era when you could speak confidentially and say, ‘Don’t worry, this won’t appear in the papers’ - that era is over,” the former US diplomat said.

The leaks also revealed that an insider kept the US embassy informed during coalition talks last year, as Merkel’s current government was being formed.

Kornblum said diplomatic fact-finding was not unlike the work of journalists, who maintained relations with politicians and accessed information in that way. He said the real weakness was the ease with which the information could be accessed.

“It’s shocking that so many junior people, who have no reason to access the information, can download so much data,” Kornblum said.

A foreign ministry spokesman acknowledged that German diplomats also compiled reports on other countries, as a basis for their foreign policy decisions, but stressed that they worked “factually, analytically and in the country’s interest”.

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