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Trump, Merkel discuss NATO, Ukraine in phone call

President Donald J. Trump sits next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a working session at the G7 Summit | June 8, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have spoken by phone on issues including NATO funding, Ukraine, and trade, officials from the White House and German government say.

The official on March 22 said the call took place shortly after Trump began a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

A White House statement said the discussion covered trade, the Brexit debate in Britain, and upcoming meetings.

A senior administration official said the conversation also covered funding for the NATO alliance.

Trump has long criticized Germany and other NATO allies for not paying enough for their own defense and burdening U.S. taxpayers with too much of the cost.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the conversation also covered issues related to Ukraine without being specific.

Ukrainian government forces have been fighting against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk since April 2014 in a conflict that has killed some 13,000 people — a quarter of them civilians.

Moscow has also seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in a move not recognized by the international community.