Biden hosts EU’s Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen in the White House as war rages in Gaza and Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden will host European leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen in the White House at a summit set to deliver a message of unity on conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.
Friday’s EU-US summit was initially set to focus on testing trade issues. However, the leaders are expected to stress their strategic partnership against a backdrop of global crises.
As fighting rages on in Ukraine, Israel’s war against Hamas, the armed group that rules Gaza, threatens to spill over across the Middle East.
Drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Hamas’s assault, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech on Thursday that “these two crises, however different, call on Europe and America to take a stand together” in order to “shelter our democracies”.
Washington and Brussels hope to avoid a potential second front in the Israel-Hamas conflict that would see the involvement of the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon – or a regional escalation with unpredictable ramifications.
“It’s particularly important that we redouble our efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that this conflict does not spill outside of its borders,” said an EU official on condition of anonymity.
The summit will be an opportunity “to send clear unified messages to all parties in the conflict”, the official told reporters.
Security packages to ward off ‘annihilation’
The leaders’ ability to show strong, ongoing support for Ukraine will be a key issue.
Biden, who has just returned from a visit to Tel Aviv, addressed Americans on Thursday evening in a bid to unite them behind the defence of Israel and Ukraine – and secure the political consensus he needs to fund both causes.
Amid paralysis in Congress, the president said he would lodge an urgent request that the lower house support a security package of up to $100bn for Israel and Ukraine.
“Hamas and Putin represent different threats but they share this in common; they both want to annihilate a neighbouring democracy,” he said.
Hamas fighters stormed into Israel on October 7 and have killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials.
More than 3,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across the Gaza Strip in Israeli bombardments in retaliation, said the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza.
Sunak tours region
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani agreed in a meeting on Friday on the need to prevent the war from spilling over across the Middle East and to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.
“They underlined the imperative of avoiding any escalation in the violence across the region and agreed that leaders had a responsibility to do everything possible to prevent it,” Sunak’s office said in a statement.
“They agreed on the urgent need to get food, water and medicine to civilians who are suffering.”
Sunak will travel to Egypt later on Friday to stress “the imperative of avoiding regional escalation and preventing the further unnecessary loss of civilian life,” his office said.
On Thursday, the UK premier visited Jerusalem in a show of support for Israel. There he sought to help negotiations on the release of captives held by Hamas and to ease the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
He also met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, during which he encouraged the Saudi Arabian leader to use his country’s regional leadership to support stability.