WASHINGTON – United States President Joe Biden and Britain’s new prime minister Rishi Sunak agreed in talks on Tuesday to work together to support Ukraine and stand up to China, according to the White House.
They spoke for the first time hours after Mr Sunak became Britain’s third prime minister in 2022, inheriting an economic crisis after the resignation of Ms Liz Truss after a mere 45-day tenure.
The two leaders also reaffirmed the “special relationship” that exists between the US and Britain.
They said they would work together to advance global security and prosperity, the White House said in a read-out of the conversation.
“The leaders agreed on the importance of working together to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its aggression,” the statement said of the war triggered by Russia’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbour in February.
In its own read-out of the call, Downing St said Mr Sunak promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Britain’s support would be “as strong as ever”.
“The Prime Minister said... President Zelensky could count on his government to stand in continued solidarity,” a spokesman for Mr Sunak said.
“Both leaders agreed on the need to continue to place pressure on Putin’s barbaric regime through continued economic sanctions.”
For his part, Mr Zelensky said he believed “British leadership in defending democracy and freedom” would only get stronger.
“Ukraine and Britain have reached new heights in relations lately. But nevertheless, we still have potential to strengthen our cooperation,” he said in an evening video address, adding that he has invited Mr Sunak to visit Ukraine.
The White House said Mr Biden and Mr Sunak also agreed to “address the challenges posed by China”, which Washington has identified as its top geopolitical and economic rival on the world stage today.
Downing St earlier released its own read-out of the call, in which it said the pair “discussed the extent of UK-US cooperation, both bilaterally and in regions such as the Indo-Pacific”, as well as the more contentious issue of Northern Ireland.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Biden congratulated Mr Sunak in a tweet.
On Monday, Mr Biden described the naming of Britain’s first non-white prime minister as “pretty astounding, a groundbreaking milestone”.
Britain has been a key European ally of the US in arming and supporting the Ukrainian military as it tries to repel the Russian invasion. REUTERS, AFP