Biden telephones new British PM Sunak

Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden have discussed the war in Ukraine during a phone call, as the US President called Britain his country’s “closest ally”.

The new Prime Minister, who took over from Liz Truss on Tuesday (local time), will meet Mr Biden in coming weeks at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

A Downing Street spokesman said on Tuesday that Mr Biden congratulated Mr Sunak on his appointment, adding that “the leaders looked forward to working closely together”.

In recent days Mr Biden appeared to publicly criticise Ms Truss’ doomed economic strategy, in a rare intervention by a US president. He described her plans for sweeping tax cuts – which led in part to her rapid downfall as British PM – as a mistake.

Relations between the two countries have also been somewhat strained in recent years amid ongoing Britain-EU tensions over post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland, with White House concerns over the effect on peace in the region.

The issue appears to have come up in Tuesday’s call to Mr Sunak, according to details released by Downing Street, along with the war in Ukraine and the rising power of China.

“President Biden congratulated the Prime Minister on his appointment and the leaders looked forward to working closely together. President Biden said that the UK remains America’s closest ally, and the prime minister agreed on the huge strength of the relationship,” the spokesman said.

“The leaders discussed the extent of UK-US cooperation, both bilaterally and in regions such as the Indo-Pacific where the AUKUS pact forms part of our efforts to enhance stability and counter China’s malign influence.

“They reflected on the leading role our countries are playing in supporting the people of Ukraine and ensuring Putin fails in this war.

“The Prime Minister and President Biden also agreed on the need to ensure the people of Northern Ireland have security and prosperity through preserving the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

“The leaders looked forward to meeting in person at the upcoming G20 Summit in Indonesia.”

-with AAP

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