BERLIN (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday he would use a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart to discuss resetting ties between the two countries after past differences over the kidnapping of a Vietnamese businessman in Berlin.
Maas said Vietnam was a key partner for Germany in Southeast Asia, and lauded Hanoi for making important progress in opening its economy and enacting other reforms in recent years. Germany is Vietnam’s leading trading partner in Europe.
“In the past there were noticeable differences between Germany and Vietnam, above all over the kidnapping of the Vietnamese citizen Trinh Xuan Thanh in Berlin,” he said in a statement. “Today we want to reach agreement about resetting the strategic partnership between Vietnam and Germany and filling it with new substance.”
Ties between the two countries soured in 2017 after Germany accused Vietnam of breaching international law by kidnapping businessman Trinh Xuan Thanh, who had sought asylum in Germany, from a Berlin street and taking him back to Vietnam, where he was tried and jailed for life.
A German court in July sentenced a Vietnamese man to three years and 10 months in jail after he confessed to helping his country’s secret services kidnap Thanh.
In a statement issued before his meeting in Berlin with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Maas underscored the importance of human rights and common values in any strategic partnership. The two officials did not hold a news conference.
“Vietnam, like Germany, is committed to multilateralism and free trade. It has taken on increasing global responsibility and is engaged in climate protection,” Maas said. “These are all areas in which Germany and Vietnam can work together more closely in the future.”
Maas also said Germany supported a rapid agreement on a free trade agreement between the European Union and Vietnam.
The two countries began diplomatic relations in 1975 and elevated their ties to a strategic partnership in 2011.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by James Dalgleish
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