A German government spokesman has confirmed that Chancellor Angela Merkel will not attend an in-person summit of world leaders that President Donald Trump has suggested he will host in the United States despite concerns over the coronavirus.
Leaders from the G7 had been scheduled to meet by videoconference in late June after the pandemic scuttled plans to gather in-person at Camp David, the US presidential retreat.
Trump last week, however, indicated that he could hold the huge gathering after all, “primarily at the White House” but also potentially parts of it at Camp David, in Maryland state.
Merkel has declined, according to the spokesman.
“As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington,” the spokesman said, confirming an earlier report on the Politico website.
“The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G7 summit,” he added.
The G7 is made up of the US, Italy, Japan, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union. Member states take turns organising the annual gathering, with participants normally sending large delegations with their leaders to the summits and journalists from all the world convene to cover their meeting, as well.
The White House said it is putting the huge diplomatic gathering back on the agenda as a “show of strength” when global economies are gradually re-emerging from lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Merkel is the first to give a firm no, while other world leaders have expressed vaguely positive responses.
On Friday, the White House said Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had spoken and “agreed on the importance of convening the G7 in person in the near future”.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who hosted the 2018 summit, said any in-person gathering would have to prioritise safety, while a French presidential official said President Emmanuel Macron, last year’s host, was “willing to go to Camp David if the health conditions allow”.
European Council head Charles Michel, meanwhile, said through a spokesman that he would attend “if health conditions allow”.
The US is the worst-hit country for coronavirus infections, having registered more than 1,745,000 cases and some 102,000 deaths.