Berlin, Reuters—Germany’s decision to ask the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country was an adequate, inevitable response following fresh allegations of US spying on Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday.
“Our decision to ask the current representative of the US intelligence services to leave Germany is the right decision, a necessary step and a fitting reaction to the break of trust which has occurred,” Steinmeier told reporters.
“Taking action was unavoidable, in my opinion. We need and expect a relationship based on trust.”
He added a strong transatlantic partnership was especially important now given international crises. He would tell US Secretary of State John Kerry when they meet in Vienna on the weekend for talks on Iran’s nuclear program that Germany was eager to revive that partnership on the basis of mutual trust.
The scandal has chilled relations with Washington to levels not seen since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s predecessor opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It follows allegations that Merkel herself was among thousands of Germans whose mobile phones have been bugged by American agents.
Merkel has not had a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama since Berlin asked the CIA station chief to leave, but the two are in close contact, a German government spokesman said on Friday.
“There has been no phone call [between] the Chancellor and Washington and none is planned. But you know the Chancellor and the American President are in good contact with each other,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference.
Seibert said the government expected the US intelligence representative to leave Germany “promptly.”
The decision to ask the CIA station chief to leave came after dramatic reports of US espionage activity in Germany.
On Wednesday, Berlin said it had discovered a suspected US spy in the Defense Ministry. That came just days after a German foreign intelligence worker was arrested on suspicion of being a CIA informant and admitted passing documents to a US contact.
Public outrage at the revelations put pressure on Merkel to take action against the United States.
Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper, Bild, said Merkel had ordered German secret services to reduce cooperation with US counterparts to a minimum, while the Sueddeutche Zeitung called the expulsion “an unprecedented act of protest against American arrogance.”
However, there is a limit to what Merkel can do and both sides have stressed the need to continue to work closely together.