U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says European concerns over electronic surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies should not be allowed to disrupt trade talks between the United States and the European Union.
Kerry, speaking on a visit to Poland on November 5, said discussions over the alleged surveillance of European leaders and citizens should be entirely separate from negotiations on a new trans-Atlantic trade deal.
"This is a trade partnership. It has the ability to lift all of our countries," Kerry said. "Europe has obviously been having a very challenging economic time and the United States has also had its challenges. We're starting to come back and get a lot stronger, but the Transatlantic Trade Partnership is really separate from and different from any other issues that people may have on their minds."
Allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the telephone calls of millions of Europeans, including the German chancellor, have triggered a rift in trans-Atlantic ties.
Kerry said "the right balance" should be found between ensuring citizens' protection from terrorist threats and their right to privacy.
The new trade and investment agreement between the United States and the European Union would be the world's biggest free-trade deal.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said on November 4 that the talks will go ahead next week in Brussels as planned.
Kerry, speaking after talks with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, also said U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe were "absolutely on target."
The NATO missile-defense plan, which has infuriated Russia, envisages deploying dozens of interceptors in Romania and Poland between now and 2018.
Poland sought reassurances that Washington would not abandon the plans after President Barack Obama reduced the scale of the deployment.
Kerry's visit to Poland is part of an 11-day tour of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
Addressing the situation in Syria, Kerry reiterated that there is no military solution to the 2 1/2-year-old conflict that has killed more than 115,000.
"I hope that the Syrian government and the Russians and Iranians and others who support the Syrian regime will make certain that the Syrian regime will live up to its obligation to come to Geneva to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria," Kerry said.
Kerry's comments came as Russian and U.S. negotiators prepared to hold talks later on November 5 in Geneva with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
The talks aim to assess prospects for a peace conference, dubbed Geneva 2, amid broad disagreements about who should attend the meeting and growing differences among Syrian opposition groups.
Based on reporting by Reuters and AP