Germany's Merkel, Trump agree on importance of NATO in call

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine on Saturday and agreed on the importance of NATO during their first call since Trump's inauguration, according to joint statement by Merkel's office.

The two leaders had an "extensive phone conversation" in which they also talked about relations with Russia, said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.

"They expressed their intention to further deepen the already excellent bilateral relations in the coming years," Seibert said.

On NATO, both agreed on the "fundamental importance that the NATO alliance has for trans-Atlantic relations" and the need for all members to pay their fair share. Trump has repeatedly said some U.S. allies don't spend enough on their militaries.

In the joint statement, there was no mention of refugees, not even of Trump's move on Friday banning refugees from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. That move drew sharp criticism Saturday from French President Francois Hollande, Germany's European Union ally, among others.

Trump had severely criticized Merkel during his election campaign, claiming she was "ruining" Germany by allowing hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers into the country.

In turn, Merkel had raised eyebrows after Trump's victory by insisting that the basis for cooperation between Berlin and Washington should be "democracy, freedom and human rights worldwide, and to strive for an open and liberal world order."

Seibert said Trump accepted Merkel's invitation to attend the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, in July. Trump also said he looked forward to welcoming Merkel in Washington "soon," according to the statement.

It was the second time Trump and Merkel have spoken by phone. They first spoke when the German chancellor called Trump shortly after the election to congratulate him on his victory.