LONDON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has hailed the UK as his country’s closest ally ahead of President Joe Biden’s trip to Europe next month, although he kindly encouraged his hosts to donate prioritizing “stability” in Northern Ireland amid tensions over impact. of Brexit.
Blinken held a joint press conference on Monday with Dominic Raab, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, as G7 foreign ministers gathered for meetings in London.
Referring to Afghanistan, Blinken told reporters: “We have been side by side for almost 20 years, sharing a mission and supporting each other. We will never forget it.
“The United States has no closer ally, no closer partner than the UK, and I am happy to have the opportunity to repeat it here today.”
The two presented a united front as they faced possible differences in approach regarding the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the implementation of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol – the section of the he Brexit deal with the EU which aims to prevent the need for a hard border with the Republic of Ireland to the south.
Raab said the UK “recognizes and appreciates” the US contribution to the Good Friday Agreement – the 1998 agreement that ended decades of widespread sectarian violence – and stressed that the Irish Protocol of the North would be promulgated in a “balanced” manner.
Meanwhile, Blinken has hinted at some of the problems associated with border arrangements so far, telling reporters: “As the Brexit provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol begin to be implemented, we will continue to do so. ‘encourage the UK to prioritize political and economic stability.’
Biden risked strained relations with the British government during his presidential campaign when he warned in a Tweeter that the GFA could become a ‘Brexit victim’.
On another potential point of tension, Raab was asked if the United States had dismissed concerns expressed by the British military over Afghanistan. “We don’t feel ignored, and our goal in the meantime is to protect our troops,” while Blinken stressed that Washington would abide by the principle of “together, fit together, date together,” he said.
The UK and US have been working to show their solidarity since Biden took office, and his visit to the UK for the G7 summit next month will be part of his first overseas trip in as president.
While the two foreign ministers condemned Iran’s detention of British and American citizens, Raab was unable to offer new hope for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned there since. 2016. He said the information that she was about to be released was “not accurate.”
Raab also emphasized a shared approach from China, promising to “stand up” to Beijing on human rights at the same time as committing to climate change.