Truss-Biden meeting postponed until after funeral

Liz TrussImage source, Reuters

A planned meeting between Liz Truss and US President Joe Biden before the Queen’s funeral has been cancelled, Downing Street has said.

No 10 said a “full bilateral meeting” between the PM and Mr Biden would instead take place at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

It is thought holding the talks after the period of national mourning would allow more wide-ranging discussions.

Ms Truss met her counterparts from New Zealand and Australia on Saturday.

The prime minister held informal talks with Jacinda Ardern and Australian premier Anthony Albanese at Chevening House in Kent.

And Number 10 confirmed Ms Truss will see Irish Taoiseach [prime minister] Micheál Martin, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, and Polish President Andrzej Duda at Downing Street on Sunday.

Although she met Mr Biden when she was foreign secretary, next week’s UN meeting with him in New York will be Ms Truss’s first as UK prime minister.

Monday’s funeral will be one of the biggest diplomatic events of recent years, with some 500 heads of state and foreign dignitaries expected to attend.

It is providing Ms Truss with an opportunity to meet foreign counterparts less than two weeks after taking office.

But Downing Street had stressed that talks this weekend would not be formal bilateral meetings because of the official 10-day mourning period following the death of the Queen.

It would not be issuing summaries of the discussions as would normally happen after the PM’s meetings with foreign leaders, No 10 added.

As a former foreign secretary, Liz Truss is not exactly new to rubbing shoulders with world leaders.

She’ll see a lot of them over this weekend.

Meeting them as prime minister, though, is different and the first meeting with the US president is always the biggest for a new PM.

When Liz Truss and Joe Biden do sit down, it will be closely scrutinised for any indications of the health, or otherwise, of the “special relationship”.

I’m told that holding it after the official mourning period means it can be much more focussed on business rather than reflecting on the Queen.

There is a lot of business to tackle.

Joe Biden is no fan of Liz Truss’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, for a start.

The US has suggested it is “not conducive” to the other not-so-small matter of a trade deal.

All this will have to wait though, until later in the week.

In advance of her talks with Ms Truss, Ms Ardern said the death of the Queen would be the “focus of conversation”, and they were also likely to discuss Ukraine and the UK’s free trade agreement with New Zealand. announced last October.

It was thought the meeting between Ms Truss and Mr Albanese focused on trade, after the signing of a deal between the UK and Australia in December.

Ms Truss also held a phone call with the President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, on Saturday in which he expressed his condolences on the death of the Queen.

The meeting with the Irish Republic’s prime minister comes at a time of strained relations with the EU over post-Brexit checks in Northern Ireland.

The UK is refusing to apply some of the checks it signed up to in the Brexit withdrawal deal, prompting a series of lawsuits from the EU.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Liz Truss met Joe Biden in Glasgow last November, when he attended the COP 26 climate summit

Mr Martin has expressed concern about legislation Ms Truss introduced as foreign secretary enabling the UK to alter the legal commitments it signed up in the exit treaty in 2019.

Ms Truss is expected to meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for talks at the UN meeting in New York next week.

The state funeral service in Westminster Abbey on Monday is expected to be attended by hundreds of foreign dignitaries, including politicians and royalty.

Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Russia and Belarus have not been invited – whilst Iran, North Korea and Nicaragua have been asked to only send a senior diplomat.

China’s President Xi Jinping is on the guest list for the funeral ceremony but is not thought likely to attend.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Friday that no decision had been made on whether they would be sending a delegation, although press reports have suggested China’s vice-president will attend.

Ms Truss is expected to have a phone call with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman on Saturday evening.

The de facto ruler’s invitation to the Queen’s funeral has sparked protests from human rights campaigners. A declassified CIA report concluded that he had authorised the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – allegations denied by the crown prince.

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