U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office on Thursday, where the two men spoke about a range of world issues from Northern Ireland to Ukraine. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
March 17 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden hosted Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House Friday for a traditional St. Patrick's Day meeting that was intended to reaffirm the partnership between the longtime allies.
The leaders discussed their mutual support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, as well as a range of pressing global issues ahead of Biden's visit to Northern Ireland next month to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, according to the White House.
"I really profoundly want to thank you and America for your leadership in relation to Ukraine," Varadkar said. "I never thought we'd see a war like this happen in Europe in my lifetime. And America is at its best when it stands with its European partners to defend freedom and democracy."
The 1998 settlement established peace in neighboring Northern Ireland after several decades of political violence left at least 3,500 people dead.
The United States played a pivotal role in brokering the ceasefire, with then-President Bill Clinton appointing Senator George Mitchell to lead negotiations between the British and Irish governments, which led to para-military groups laying down their weapons and the establishment of peaceful democracy in Northern Ireland.
"And, for us, the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is something that a very good friend of mine devoted a lot of his life to, George Mitchell, and we -- that's critical," Biden said.
Biden and the 43-year-old Varadkar also hailed last month's agreement between the British government and the European Union, known as the the Windsor Framework, which would help preserve the stability established by the Belfast accords.
Signed by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in London on Feb. 27, the framework removes a major Brexit stumbling block that has poisoned relations with the European Union and left Northern Ireland effectively without a government for the past 10 months.
The White House meeting also comes on the heels of a major agreement between the U.S., Australia and Britain to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that would serve to counter aggression by Chinese naval forces in the Pacific.
During a Monday meeting in San Diego to launch the military strategy, British leader Sunak noted the Good Friday agreement was "something that's very special and personal" to Biden, whose Irish roots can be traced back to County Mayo and Country Louth in the Republic of Ireland.
Varadkar was elected as Taoiseach, or the prime minister of the Irish government, for a second time in December, gaining power as part of a coalition arrangement. He previously served as Taoiseach and the country's minister of defense between 2017 and 2020.
Also Friday, Biden attended the Friends of Ireland Caucus St. Patrick's Day luncheon in Washington, the White House said. Biden also hosted Varadkar a second time for a Shamrock presentation and reception at the White House, which was attended by Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff.
In the evening, the president plans to travel to his home in Wilmington, Del., to spend the weekend.