Biden in UK amid concern over Ukraine cluster bombs


The main part of Biden’s Europe trip will be the NATO summit, where the Western allies will discuss helping Ukraine…reports Asian Lite News

US President Joe Biden arrived in Britain on Sunday where he will meet King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before continuing to Vilnius for a NATO summit, then a final stop in new NATO member Finland.

Air Force One touched down at Stansted Airport north of London late in the evening.

On Monday, he meets the British monarch at Windsor Castle, one of the royal residences, for the first time since Charles III’s coronation.

The US president did not attend the ceremony, sending First Lady Jill Biden instead. Their talks are expected to focus on environmental issues, the White House said. President Biden will also be meeting with Prime Minister Sunak at 10 Downing Street.

The main part of Joe Biden’s Europe trip will be the NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital Tuesday and Wednesday, where the Western allies will discuss helping Ukraine to oust Russian occupation forces.

Ukraine is pressing for admission to the military alliance but President Biden said in an interview aired on Sunday with CNN that this cannot happen until the war is over. Bringing Ukraine in now would mean NATO is at war with Russia, Joe Biden said.

Under Article 5, NATO is committed to defending any member that comes under attack. “It’s a commitment that we’ve all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case,” President Biden said.

Joe Biden hopes to use the summit to pressure Turkey to drop its opposition to Sweden’s all-but-cleared NATO membership bid. Entry requires unanimous consent from all members.

In a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday, Joe Biden “conveyed his desire to welcome Sweden into NATO as soon as possible,” the White House said.

The two leaders “expressed their shared commitment to continue supporting Ukraine,” the statement added.

President Erdogan’s office said separately that he would meet with President Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius. The talks will focus on “Ukraine’s position in NATO, Sweden’s NATO membership, and the delivery of F-16” fighter jets, which Turkey hopes to secure from the United States, the Turkish presidency said.

In the interview with CNN, Joe Biden had said he was considering supplying Turkey and Greece with new or upgraded US-made fighter aircraft as an enticement for Turkey to let Sweden join NATO.

“And so, what I’m trying to, quite frankly, put together is a little bit of a consortium here where we’re strengthening NATO in terms of the military capacity of both Greece as well as Turkey and allow Sweden to come in,” Joe Biden said. “But it’s in play. It’s not done.”

President Erdogan’s office said, however, that it was “not correct” to link Turkey’s desire to acquire the fighter jets, which need congressional approval, with Sweden’s membership drive.

While in Vilnius, Joe Biden will also deliver a major foreign policy speech at the city’s university. His trip comes in the wake of a controversial decision to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions, which most NATO member countries have banned but which the United States continues to hold in its arsenal and says will help Ukraine destroy heavily dug-in Russian forces.

Joe Biden’s final stop before returning to Washington on Thursday will be Finland, which ended its historic neutrality to enter NATO in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

President Biden will be the first US president to visit Helsinki since Donald Trump went five years ago to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The discussion between the two will emphasise on “Ukraine’s positon in NATO, Sweden’s NATO membership, and the delivery of F-16 fighter jets,” which Turkey hopes to secure from the United States, the Turkish presidency said.

Prior to departing the country, Biden stated that he would reject requests for giving Ukraine quick entry into the alliance–a proposal that Erdogan publicly backed on Saturday, as per Al Jazeera.

All 31 members must agree unanimously for a country to join NATO. At this week’s summit, Ukraine has demanded that the military alliance lay out a clear path for membership. However, the US and Germany have expressed strong reluctance about the prospect of welcoming a country at war with unfinished democratic reforms, insisting that the priority should be on providing weapons and ammunition.

“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Biden said in a CNN interview previewing his trip.

He appealed caution, saying the alliance could get drawn into the war with Russia due to NATO’s mutual defence agreement.

NATO could take decision to elevate its ties with Ukraine, creating what would be known as the NATO-Ukraine Council and giving Kyiv a seat at the table for consultations, reported Al Jazeera.

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