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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel arrives for a meeting at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas(reuters_tickers)
By Patricia Zengerle and Sabine Siebold
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday that Germany wanted to keep working on the transatlantic relationship but that it was important for Germany and the United States to stick to shared values such as freedom of religion.
U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries has caused international outrage. German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue again during a visit to Ankara on Thursday, saying that fighting terrorism did not justify placing Muslims under general suspicion.
During a visit to Washington, Gabriel said: "We share a fixed set of values with the USA but these values, which include the freedom of religion and dealing fairly with each other in the world, must be upheld - we must not deviate from them."
Gabriel held talks with Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee, and Ben Cardin, the panel's most senior Democrat, on Thursday.
Corker told Reuters after the meeting that they had a "frank conversation" on a wide range of topics.
"We have some issues we need to work out but we respect the ultra-important role that Germany played in the European Union, the vice that they're in in many ways, the difficulties they're dealing with," Corker said.
Corker said NATO was among the issues they discussed. Trump has repeatedly criticised NATO members such as Germany that do not spend 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on their militaries.
"Our NATO allies that are not doing the things they are supposed to be doing funding-wise have got to step up," Corker said, adding that this had been discussed for years in the U.S. Senate and now action needed to be taken.
"And I think they know that, and they're prepared to do that. And at the same time, they point out, they have huge burdens on refugees. Which I think is a fair assessment of where they’ve been," Corker said.
Merkel and Trump underscored the importance of the NATO alliance during a phone call on Saturday. Merkel has said Germany will work to increase its defence spending - now at 1.19 percent of GDP - but also warned that it would take time to achieve the goal. [
Gabriel is due to meet U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later on Thursday.
(Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Andrea Shalal)