G7 summit: Biden, Johnson to reaffirm bond but tensions simmer


On the eve of the G7 summit, the US leader is expected to warn his UK counterpart on Brexit-related friction in Northern Ireland.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United States President Joe Biden are expected to reaffirm ties between their two countries on the eve of the G7 summit, despite warnings from Washington to ease Brexit tensions.

The pair are set to agree an “Atlantic Charter” when they meet in Cornwall in south-west England on Thursday for their first face-to-face talks since Biden took office in January.

The agreement would be based on the historic 1941 joint statement made by then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill and then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which set out Washington and London’s vision for a new world order after World War II.

Johnson and Biden will reportedly set up a task force to restart UK-US travel, which has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and discuss how to provide vaccines to the world’s poor countries.

But talks may slow down when Biden, as expected, warns Johnson – one of the leaders of the 2016 Brexit campaign – on friction in Northern Ireland following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

US leaders are concerned that Johnson’s heated disagreement with the bloc over the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol of Brexit deal could undermine the 1998 US-broker peace agreement – the Good Friday Agreement – that ended 30 years of bloodshed in the region.

“President Biden has been clear about his conviction in the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation of peaceful coexistence in Northern Ireland,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Air Force One.

“Any move that jeopardizes or undermines it will not be welcomed by the United States.”

Biden ‘wants to tie allies closer’

Biden’s visit to Britain is his first overseas trip since becoming president.

After meeting Johnson, he will attend the G7 summit in Cornwall from Friday to Sunday, which will be attended by the UK prime minister and leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada.

Biden will then attend a NATO summit on Monday, a US-EU summit on Tuesday and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva the next day.

He will try to use the visit to ignite his multilateral credentials following the uproar of Donald Trump’s presidency, which left many US allies in Europe and Asia isolated and some.

Al Jazeera’s James Bay, reporting from Cornwall, said Biden’s idea was “to tie his allies closer” after Trump took office.

“We’re going to see it first with the G7 partners, then with the NATO alliance, which of course got worse after Trump … then with the EU,” Baez said.

Biden wants to “get all those allies on the same page with various world issues”, including efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and how to deal with rival powers like China and Russia, he said.

Since the last meeting of the G7 took place two years ago, COVID-19 has killed more than 3.7 million people worldwide and ravaged economies hit by stringent lockdowns and mass layoffs.

covid test

As criticism of the WHO’s origins of the coronavirus grows in January and February, the US president will encourage G7 leaders to call for a second WHO investigation, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing a leaked draft release.

Hours after that report, EU leaders themselves called for a new, unsubstantiated study into the origins of COVID-19, which was first identified in central China in late 2019.

“Investigators need full access to whatever is needed to trace the source of this pandemic,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.

European Council chief Charles Michel echoed von der Leyen’s call.

“The world has a right to know what really happened to be able to learn the lesson,” he said.

But EU diplomats have said the EU’s support for a new study is mostly symbolic, as the bloc will not be directly involved.

Last month, the US mission to the United Nations in Geneva said the original WHO report was “inadequate and inconclusive”, calling for a second investigation, including from China.

Biden said in May that US intelligence agencies were pursuing potentially rival theories, including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.

The WHO report stated that the virus was likely transmitted from bats to humans via another animal, and that “introduction via a laboratory event was considered an extremely unlikely route”.

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