Biden to travel to UK, NATO summit, Finland: White House

US President Joe Biden has scheduled a diplomatic trip to Europe this month with stops in the United Kingdom, at the NATO summit in Lithuania and to attend meetings in Finland, the White House said Sunday.

Biden is set to depart July 9 for Britain, where he will meet with the King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the White House said in a statement. He will then continue to the NATO summit in Vilnius on July 11-12, followed by a one-day visit to Helsinki for the US-Nordic Leaders Summit.

The announcement comes as the White House prepares to welcome Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Washington next week to discuss Stockholm’s ambitions to join NATO, and after the US said the alliance was nearing a consensus on how to address Ukraine’s membership push.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday said he wanted his country, which is fighting off a Russian invasion, to receive an “invitation” to join NATO after the war during a key summit this month.

“We need a very clear and understandable signal at the Vilnius summit that Ukraine can become an equal member of NATO after the war,” he told reporters in Kyiv alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. “This invitation to the alliance is the first, very practical step, it would be very important for us.”

Sweden asked to join the military alliance in May 2022, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine. But its membership bid, which must be ratified by all 31 member states, has been blocked by Turkey and Hungary.

Top diplomats from Turkey and Sweden will meet on Thursday, the day after Kristersson’s White House visit, at NATO headquarters in Brussels for talks on Stockholm’s bid to join the alliance.

Turkey dropped objections to Sweden’s Nordic neighbor Finland joining earlier in the year and Helsinki became a NATO member in April.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month denounced Stockholm for allowing a protest during which a man burned pages from the Koran, further clouding Sweden’s chances of quickly joining NATO.

Western allies and Stockholm have insisted that Sweden has met the terms of a deal to join the alliance agreed to with Ankara last year.

Biden will seek to “further strengthen the close relationship between our nations” during his visit to Britain, the White House said, adding that more details about the trip will be announced soon.

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©️ Agence France-Presse

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