New German foreign minister to meet Trump administration next week: report

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s incoming foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, will hold talks with President Donald Trump’s administration in the United States next week, Handelsblatt newspaper said on Friday, after a cool start to relations between Berlin and the new U.S. leader.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, enjoyed a close relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. When Trump won the White House race in November, Merkel pointedly offered to work closely with him on the basis of values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law.

Gabriel, a Social Democrat and a frequent critic of Trump, will meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s designated secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, Handelsblatt reported, citing government sources.

Gabriel left his job as economics minister and replaced Frank-Walter Steinmeier as foreign minister in a ceremony on Friday.

A source told Reuters Merkel was likely to speak with Trump on Saturday, with the conversation likely to center on Russia.

It was unclear if Trump would discuss a possible lifting of the U.S. sanctions that were imposed on Russia in the wake of its intervention in Ukraine.

Gabriel and his Social Democrats historically favor more dialogue with Moscow and have been more open to the idea of gradually reducing sanctions than Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrats.

Gabriel will begin his new post with a short trip to France on Saturday, officials said.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Richard Lough