German FM says Britain shouldn't be treated too harshly

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, left, and German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel talk during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. The annual weekend gathering is known for providing an open and informal platform to meet in close quarters. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

MUNICH — Germany's foreign minister says Britain's European Union partners should resist the temptation to be excessively tough on London as it negotiates its exit from the 28-nation bloc.

Britain voted to leave the EU in a referendum last June. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger the process of negotiating the country's departure by the end of March.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday he regrets very much Britain's decision to leave but "we must respect it."

He added: "We should resist the temptation to treat Britain overly harshly — not out of pity but in our own interest. We need Britain, for example, as a partner in security policy and I am also convinced that Britain needs us."

Gabriel is also Germany's vice chancellor.

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