Angela Merkel says fight against terrorism no excuse for U.S. entry ban
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Shutterstock)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told U.S. President Donald Trump that the global fight against terrorism was no excuse for banning refugees or people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, her spokesman said on Sunday.

"She is convinced that even the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion," spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

He said the German government regrets the entry travel ban on refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority states, would review the consequences for German citizens with dual nationalities and would "represent their interests, if needed, vis a vis our U.S. partners".

He said Merkel had expressed her concerns to Trump during a telephone call on Saturday and reminded him that the Geneva Conventions require the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds.

Trump on Friday ordered a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily banned travelers from Syria and six other predominantly Muslim countries.

Seibert's comments were the first indication of discord between Merkel and Trump over the issue.

The two leaders had highlighted common interests such as strengthening NATO and combating Islamist militancy in a joint statement after their 45-minute telephone call.

Thomas Oppermann, who heads the parliamentary faction of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel's right-center coalition, called Trump's order "inhumane and foolhardy" and said it would result in significant damage to the U.S. economy.

"The order contradicts everything that makes up the United States' good reputation as a country of immigration," he told Die Welt newspaper. "No one should be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs."

Germany's pro-environment Green party also blasted the ban, with a senior party official telling Reuters the measure affected tens of thousands of Germans who had dual citizenship.

"Donald Trump is no longer a reliable partner," said Dieter Janecek, economic spokesman for the Green's parliamentary faction. "If this insanity is not rescinded, that one should look into whether it is possible to impose a travel ban on him and (White House adviser) Stephen Bannon, the author of this unconstitutional rule."

Trump on Saturday accepted Merkel's invitation to attend the a meeting of the Group of 20 industrialized nations in Hamburg in July. He also invited Merkel to visit Washington soon.

But Janecek said Germany had to take action if changes in the U.S. rules meant German lawmakers and other German citizens with dual citizenship could no longer visit the United States.

No comment was immediately available from Omid Nouripour, a Green lawmaker and vice-chief of the German-American caucus, who has German and Iranian citizenship.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Andrea Shalal; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Heinrich)