AFP, Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2023 at 11:14 pm.
US President Joe Biden arrived in England on Sunday, where he will meet Britain’s King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before heading to the NATO summit in Vilnius.
The Democratic leader took off from a military base in Delaware on Air Force One and landed at Stansted Airport in north London in the evening.
He will meet Charles III at Windsor Castle on Monday, with his wife Jill representing Joe Biden for the first time since his coronation.
According to the White House, the two leaders should mainly address environmental issues. The US President will later meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street.
But the centerpiece of Joe Biden’s tour will be a NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Tuesday and Wednesday, where Western allies will discuss their support for Ukraine against a Russian invasion.
– “Hope” –
The Democrats hope to use this to convince Turkey to accept Sweden’s candidacy for NATO.
“I think they should be part of NATO,” he said in an interview with CNN on Sunday morning, in which he said he was “hopeful” about joining soon from Stockholm.
The US president has hinted at a solution that would involve modernizing the Turkish fleet of F-16s to counter Turkish reluctance over Sweden’s alleged leniency towards Kurdish fighters sheltering in the Scandinavian country.
“I’m trying to come up with some kind of consensus to strengthen NATO with the military capabilities of both Greece and Turkey, and we’re allowing Sweden. But it’s not done yet,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Joe Biden spoke by phone on Sunday, with Ankara announcing a meeting between the two men in Vilnius to discuss “Ukraine’s place in NATO, Sweden’s membership in NATO and F-16 delivery.”
During this interview, the US president “expressed his desire to welcome Sweden into NATO as soon as possible”, the White House indicated for its part.
He added that the two leaders “expressed a common commitment to continue supporting Ukraine.”
– Ukraine “not ready” –
But on Kyiv’s NATO membership, Joe Biden was intransigent. “I don’t think she’s ready to be part of NATO,” he swept in the same interview with CNN.
Membership process requires consensus of members. “I don’t think we have a consensus in NATO to bring Ukraine (…) into the middle of a war – or not -,” the president assessed.
“If that happens we will be at war with Russia,” he warned.
During his visit to Vilnius, Joe Biden will also deliver a foreign policy speech from a university in the city.
His diplomatic tour comes after a highly controversial U.S. decision to supply Kiev with cluster munitions banned by most NATO members, but which the U.S. keeps in its arsenal.
The US president will conclude his tour with a visit to Helsinki, the capital of Finland, which ended its historic neutrality of not joining NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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