Berlin – Donald Trump’s spokesman has denied that the US president refused to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they sat side-by-side in the White House last week.

“I don’t think he heard the question” posed by Merkel when she suggested they shake hands, in full view of press cameras, spokesman Sean Spicer told German weekly Der Spiegel published Sunday.

The quote was translated into English from Der Spiegel’s online German website.

The veteran German chancellor had arrived for her first meeting with Trump at a snowy White House hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Trump’s incendiary election rhetoric, in which he called Merkel’s acceptance of refugees a “catastrophic mistake” and suggested she was “ruining Germany.”

The visit on Friday began cordially, with the pair shaking hands at the entrance of the White House. But later, sitting side-by-side in the Oval Office, Merkel’s suggestion of another handshake went unheard or ignored by Trump — an awkward moment in what are usually highly scripted occasions.

© AFP SAUL LOEB US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks at the White House in Washington DC, on March 17, 2017

© AFP SAUL LOEB – US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks at the White House in Washington DC, on March 17, 2017