- Associated Press - Saturday, February 18, 2017

MUNICH (AP) - The Latest on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Europe (all times local):

4 p.m.:

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has met separately with the leaders of Iraq and its Kurdistan region, thanking both for committing to fight the Islamic State group.

The White House says Pence also commended Iraq’s security forces for their battlefield success during his meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (HY’-dahr ahl ah-BAH’-dee). Officials say both leaders underscored the importance of continuing progress in the fight against IS, as well as on Iraq’s economic recovery and to free the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group.

In the meeting with Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Pence thanked Barazani and said the U.S. continues to support a unified, federal and democratic Iraq.

The White House says Pence encouraged close cooperation between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government.


2 p.m.:

The White House says Vice President Mike Pence expressed support for Afghanistan’s national unity government during a meeting with Ashraf Ghani, the country’s president.

The leaders met on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich. They talked about ways to improve relations between their countries and advance mutual interests, particularly on counterterrorism cooperation and economic development.

The White House says they also affirmed the importance of continuing the “strategic partnership” between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Pence is also scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (HY’-dahr ahl ah-BAH’-dee).


1 p.m.:

The White House says Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have committed to continue close cooperation on a range of global issues.

The leaders met after separately addressing a security conference in Munich.

Pence and Merkel also discussed the need for NATO member countries to meet their “burden-sharing” commitments. The White House says they also agreed that the alliance must continue to transform itself to meet 21st century threats.

Pence thanked the chancellor for leading on Ukraine and expressed appreciation for Germany’s contributions in Afghanistan and to the coalition fighting the Islamic State group.


11:15 a.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting along the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

The two leaders retired behind closed doors after both addressed the Munich Security Conference of foreign diplomats and security officials.

Pence said the US would hold Russia accountable and offered reassurances that the U.S. strongly supports NATO.

Merkel pointed to the need to preserve and strengthen multilateral partnerships such as the European Union, NATO and the United Nations.


10:15 a.m.:

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is reinforcing the Trump administration’s message that NATO members must spend more on defense.

NATO’s 28 member countries promised in 2014 to commit to spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense within a decade. Pence says in remarks at a security conference in Germany that only the U.S. and four other NATO members are meeting the standard.

President Donald Trump has also called on NATO members to spend more on their militaries.

Pence says the “time has come” for allies to boost spending because the dangers they all face are growing and changing every day.

He adds that failure to meet the spending commitment undermines the alliance’s ability to come to each other’s aid.

10 a.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the United States will “hold Russia accountable” even as President Donald Trump searches for new common ground with Russia at the start of his presidency.

Pence says at the Munich Security Conference in Germany that with regard to Ukraine, the international community must hold Russia accountable and demand that it honor a 2015 peace agreement aimed at ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists.

He’s offering assurances of the U.S. commitment to NATO and the European Union in remarks at an international conference of foreign diplomats and defense officials.

Pence’s speech comes amid concerns in Europe about Russian aggression and Trump’s positive statements about Russian President Vladimir Putin.


9:50 a.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is offering assurances that the United States strongly supports NATO and “will be unwavering in our commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance.”

He says President Donald Trump “will stand with Europe.”

Pence is addressing the Munich Security Conference in his first overseas trip as vice president.

The vice president’s speech was aimed at reassuring skeptical allies in Europe about American foreign policy under Trump along with U.S. willingness to maintain international partnerships.

Pence’s trip to Germany comes as Europeans are skittish that Trump may promote isolationist tendencies and not hold Russia accountable.

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