Merkel to meet Obama, Harper on North America trip

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks with the US and Canadian leaders next week to prepare a G7 summit she will host in June, a government spokeswoman said Monday.

Merkel will embark on the trip Sunday and meet US President Barack Obama in Washington and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa.

"Beyond G7 issues, current topics in international politics including the Ukraine crisis, the approach to Russia, the fight against terrorism (ISIS), Afghanistan and Iran will also be discussed," the spokeswoman, Christiane Wirtz, said in a statement.

She said economic and trade policy as well as climate issues would also be on the agenda in both capitals.

In Washington, Merkel is to meet other high-ranking political and business leaders to discuss the "global economy", Wirtz added.

Efforts to push through the world's biggest-ever free trade deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP), are expected to figure prominently during the three-day tour.

US and EU negotiators began their eighth round of talks on the pact in Brussels Monday, which after nearly two years remain bogged down by public opposition.

The fate of debt-mired Greece is also expected to play a major role in the talks with Obama, who on Sunday warned that imposing tough austerity requirements on Athens could backfire on its creditors.

"You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression," Obama told CNN.

Germany is the effective paymaster for Greece's bailout programmes and Merkel has insisted that Athens stick to a strict regimen of budget cuts in exchange for assistance.

Merkel will host the G7 summit meeting June 7 and 8 in Bavaria.

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