The United States and Britain kept up the pressure on their European allies to increase national defence spending at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Friday.

"As [US] President [Donald] Trump has made clear, it is no longer sustainable for the US to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO's defence expenditures," the new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told his NATO counterparts in a speech.

Tillerson, who made his maiden appearance at the gathering, was supported in his demands by British Defence Minister Michael Fallon.

Only five members currently meet the target and "others must now raise their game," Fallon told reporters at a press conference in London.

Earlier German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel described NATO's target of each country increasing defence spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) as "unrealistic."

Gabriel said that hitting the defence target would mean allocating 70 billion euros (74.8 billion dollars) per year for military purposes in Germany, hence doubling the current budget.

"I don't know a single politician in Germany who thinks that this is achievable in our country, let alone desirable," Gabriel said.

The relationship between the new US administration and NATO got off to a rocky start after Trump called the alliance "obsolete" and criticized NATO allies, including Germany, for failing to meet NATO spending targets.

Tillerson kept up the pressure in his speech.

"Allies that do not have a concrete plan to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence by 2024 need to establish one now. Allies that have a plan to reach the 2-per-cent guideline need to accelerate efforts and show results," he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that spending more on defence was in the interest of everyone, given the security threats on Europe's borders.

"Increased defence spending is not about pleasing the United States," Stoltenberg said.

"It's about investing more in European security, because it is important for Europe. Europe is close to the turmoil and violence we see in North Africa, in the Middle East, Iraq and Syria. And Europe is close to a more assertive Russia willing to use force against their neighbour in Ukraine."

The decision by NATO to hold the meeting earlier than originally planned was widely seen as an effort to accommodate Tillerson, who had said that he would not be able to attend during the originally scheduled session on April 5-6.

Tillerson's original plan to miss the NATO meeting but travel to Russia later in the month raised eyebrows about the White House's priorities.

NATO ministers also agreed at the meeting to step up efforts in Iraq, by training Iraqi paramedics in military medicine, as well as providing additional support for the maintenance of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

Friday's meeting paves the way for a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels on May 25, which Trump is expected to attend.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.