British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden committed to deepening and strengthening the long-standing partnership between their countries after their first face-to-face talks on June 10 ahead of the Group of Seven (G7) summit.
Johnson described Biden's desire to work with Britain on a range of issues from climate change to COVID-19 and security as "a big breath of fresh air."
"It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together. We went on for about an hour and 20 or so. It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects," Johnson said after the meeting.
Biden set out on his first overseas trip as president to reassure European allies that the United States is a reliable partner again and to change the tone from former President Donald Trump's brash style and “America First” approach to foreign policy.
Johnson played down what had appeared ahead of the meeting to be a potential disagreement between the two leaders by saying they were in "complete harmony" on finding solutions to uphold the 1998 peace deal in Northern Ireland.
The U.S.-brokered accord, known as the Good Friday Agreement, ended decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland, but Britain's exit from the European Union has strained the peace.
Johnson said the United States, Britain, and the European Union want to uphold the agreement, and "make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going." He said that it is "absolutely common ground" and "I’m optimistic we can do that."
'Arsenal Of Vaccines'
After his meeting with Johnson, Biden announced that the United States will purchase half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses and donate them to lower income countries with no strings attached.
"Our vaccine donations don't include pressure for favors, or potential concessions. We're doing this to save lives," Biden said, vowing that America would be the "arsenal of vaccines" just as it was "the arsenal of democracy during World War II."
Biden also called on other countries to follow the United States, saying "it is in all of our interests to see the global economy recover."
Johnson and his wife, Carrie, greeted Biden and first lady Jill earlier on June 10 at the Cornish seaside resort of Carbis Bay, England, where the G7 summit with the other members of the world’s richest nations -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan -- will open on June 11.
Biden and Johnson also signed a new Atlantic Charter "building on the commitments and aspirations set out 80 years go" by predecessors Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in 1941.
The new far-reaching document looks to the challenge posed by countries like China and Russia with its promises to promote free trade, human rights, and a rules-based international order, and to counter "those who seek to undermine our alliances and institutions."
The two leaders also promised to build stronger global defenses against health threats.
The Johnson-Biden meeting kicked off a packed agenda for the U.S. president, whose trip culminates in Geneva on June 16 with the face-to-face meeting with Putin amid escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Biden has made clear his intention to strengthen ties with U.S. allies to defend democracy and a warning to Russia against “harmful” activities.
Addressing U.S. Air Force personnel stationed at a British air base, Biden said he would deliver a clear message to Putin when they meet for bilateral talks next week following separate summits with the G7, NATO, and European leaders.
The White House has said Biden plans to discuss Ukraine during his summit with Putin. Russia seized the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014 and Kremlin-backed separatists took control of a chunk of eastern Ukraine the same year.
Biden will also discuss the diversion last month by Belarus, Russia's close ally, of a Ryanair passenger plane that led to the detention of an opposition activist.
The arrest and jailing of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and other contentious issues are also expected to be among the topics on the agenda.