Sigmar Gabriel German Vice Chancellor named foreign minister after ruling out poll bid

The Social Democrat on Tuesday said his low popularity ratings had led him to make way for his party colleague Martin Schulz.

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German President Joachim Gauck (left) hands Sigmar Gabriel the Foreign Ministty portfolio during a ceremony at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, on January 27, 2017 play

German President Joachim Gauck (left) hands Sigmar Gabriel the Foreign Ministty portfolio during a ceremony at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, on January 27, 2017

(AFP)
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German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel was appointed foreign minister on Friday, days after he bowed out of this year's election battle against Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Social Democrat on Tuesday said his low popularity ratings had led him to make way for his party colleague Martin Schulz, the former European Parliament president, as the top candidate in the race for the chancellery.

Gabriel, 57, now replaces as Germany's top diplomat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is set to take over the largely ceremonial post of federal president in mid-February.

Outgoing President Joachim Gauck formalised Gabriel's resignation as economy minister, a portfolio he hands over to Brigitte Zypries.

Gabriel's centre-left Social Democrats are the junior coalition partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU block.

If the general election results in another left-right 'grand coalition' led by Merkel's party, Gabriel would be expected to stay on as foreign minister.

On his first trip as foreign minister, Gabriel will head to Paris on Saturday to meet his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.

"The partnership, close friendship and trust between Paris and Berlin is very important to Foreign Minister Gabriel too and that's why he is travelling to France right away," a ministry spokesman told reporters.

Gabriel hopes to visit the United States soon after the Senate confirmation and appointment of nominated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the spokesman added.

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