Europe can no longer rely on the US for military protection, German leader Angela Merkel said on Thursday as the continent's leaders absorb the shock dealt by the Trump administration's decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal.
Mrs Merkel expressed concerns about the threat of war between Israel and Iran over Syria and said that Europe needed take control of its own destiny to confront global conflicts raging on the edges of the continent.
“It’s no longer the case that the United States will simply just protect us,” Mrs Merkel said at a ceremony honouring the work of the French president Emmanuel Macron in Aachen Germany for his work in deepening European integration. “Rather, Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands. That’s the task for the future.”
European leaders and Iran have said that they will seek to uphold the nuclear deal despite the withdrawal of the United States.
Washington has already warned that European companies will be subject to fresh sanctions against Tehran, setting a six-month deadline to end any business in Iran or risk heavy penalties.
That dispute follows other disagreements between the European Union and the United States since Mr Trump became president.
European leaders failed in their lobbying of the US to retain the nuclear deal and have been equally unsuccessful in keeping him within the Paris climate accord to limit global warning.
Mr Trump has previously criticised NATO allies in Europe for spending too little on defence. The two global economic powerhouses are also in dispute over punitive trade tariffs as the US president pushes his America first agenda.
Since becoming French president, Mr Macron has sought to promote European integration with a range of measures including a joint military rapid reaction force. Despite the push for improved defence cooperation, the process remained in its infancy, said the German leader.
Mr Macron echoed Mrs Merkel’s criticisms of the US decision to leave the nuclear deal and said that Europe should show greater unity and strength to become the main guarantor of stability in the Middle East.
"We made the choice to build peace and stability in the Middle East," he said in a reference to the involvement of France, Germany and the UK in the Iran deal. “Other powers, just as sovereign as us, have decided not to respect their own word.
“If we accept that other major powers, including allies ... put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy, security for us, and sometimes even make us run the worst risks, then we are not more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion.”
The German and French leaders have promised to agree a common roadmap for the future of the EU by the time of a major summit in Brussels in June. “The only solution that we have is unity,” said Mr Macron.