1 of 11 | U.S. President Joe Biden takes a selfie with guests after his speech at Ulster University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy London/UPI | License Photo
April 12 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden marked the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement by telling the people of Northern Ireland that ensuring the peace deal and the Windsor Framework remain in place are the top priorities of his visit.
Speaking at Ulster University in Belfast, Biden said he wished for the Stormont Assembly to reconvene. The Democratic Unionist Party has boycotted the legislative body for 14 months, arguing the Anglo-EU Windsor Framework agreed to in February does not adequately address their concerns about post-Brexit trading arrangements.
"I hope the Assembly and the Executive will soon be restored," Biden told the audience. "That's a decision for you to make, not for me to make.
"Supporting the people of Northern Ireland, protecting the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, preserving the peace is a priority for Democrats and Republicans alike in the United States and that's unusual today because we've been very divided in our political parties."
Biden met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier and told reporters he had come to Northern Ireland to listen.
Sunak on Monday issued a similar plea, calling on local leaders to resume the process -- created by the 1998 Good Friday agreement -- in which power is shared 50-50 between nationalists who want reunification with the Republic of Ireland and unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of Britain.
Biden will not hold a formal group meeting with the Northern Ireland political leaders due to the political impasse that has stalled power-sharing arrangements, leaving the country effectively without a government.
Belfast police remain on high alert after the terror threat alert level for the country was raised to "severe."
Biden touched down in Air Force One late Tuesday, Belfast time. He was greeted on the tarmac by Sunak and James Senior, the commander of the 38th Irish Brigade and Northern Ireland garrison.
When asked last month about heightened security during his visit, Biden was not concerned, saying "they can't keep me out."
The Good Friday agreement, which ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland, was negotiated in 1998 with the help of the United States and former President Bill Clinton, who called it an example of conflict resolution.
"The fact that the Irish got a system that the culture of both sides could accept and that was good enough so that if neither side could prevail on ... accounting for the past, I think is something to celebrate," Clinton told Ireland's RTE TV in an interview last week.
Bill and Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State, are scheduled to attend a conference at Queen's University in Belfast later this month to mark the Good Friday anniversary.
As Biden marks the anniversary with his visit this week, there is renewed animosity over the agreement following recent developments from Brexit, which have complicated relations.
While Biden is also expected to meet with Ireland's president and prime minister and address the Irish parliament, the White House has not described the trip as a policy visit, but rather a personal one.
Biden will spend several days traveling through Ireland with his son Hunter Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owens, who joined him on Air Force One.