Obama, Merkel agree on need to spur growth

United States President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on Saturday on the need for “concerted action” to spur global growth, the White House said after the leaders spoke by telephone.

The two leaders also agreed to continue working on a statement by the Middle East Quartet group that could provide a basis for a resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a White House statement said.

“The two leaders agreed on the importance of concerted action, including through the G20, to address current economic challenges and to spur growth and job creation in the global economy,” the statement said.

The statement did not specify what kind of action the leaders would recommend to spur growth.

Obama, enduring one of the roughest patches of his presidency, is preparing a speech on jobs and the deficit in September which supporters hope will contain measures to cut high unemployment and revive the recovery.

There is also concern in the US that the euro zone crisis could harm global economic growth and create more headwinds for the US recovery.

US central bank chief Ben Bernanke said on Friday he was confident European authorities had a good grip on their problems.

Financial stress “has been and continues to be a significant drag on the recovery” both in the US and Europe, he told an audience of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“Bouts of sharp volatility and risk aversion in markets have recently re-emerged in reaction to concerns about both European sovereign debts and developments related to the US fiscal situation,” he said.

He also pushed political leaders in the US to take action to bolster growth by generating more jobs and stimulating the housing market.

Obama and Merkel discussed the Middle East — less than a month before the Palestinians were due to formally submit their request for statehood to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The move comes after direct peace talks with Israel foundered late last year over a dispute over Jewish settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

Israel was strongly opposed to such a move, saying negotiations were the only way to resolve the conflict and establish a Palestinian state — a position backed by Washington, which announced its intention to block the request.

The Middle East Quartet is made up of the European Union, Russia, the US and the UN. — AFP

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