U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are seen at Cornwall Airport Newquay in Britain last Thursday before the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall. Photo by Doug Peters/G7 Cornwall 2021/UPI | License Photo
June 15 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden met in Belgium with the top leaders of the European Union on Tuesday to begin two days of diplomacy that will culminate with his first in-person sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden opened the EU-U.S. Summit with European Council President Charles Michel and EU President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels. The trio spoke of strengthening the U.S. relationship with the 27-member alliance.
"We have great opportunity to work with EU as well as NATO," Biden told reporters at the Europa building, the seat of the EU in Brussels. "And we feel very good about it.
"It's in the overwhelming the interest of the United States of America to have a great relationship with NATO and the EU."
"America is back on the global scene," Michel added. "It's great news for allies and also great news for the world."
Von der Leyen expressed optimism with Biden's cooperative multilateral approach -- something she indicated was missing under the leadership of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
"The fact that you're coming so early in your mandate underlines your personal touch to the EU and we really appreciate that," she said. "The last four years have not been easy.
"We want to reassure you that we are friends and allies and we are very much looking forward to working together."
After the U.S.-EU summit, Biden was scheduled to travel to Switzerland and finish the day in Geneva. The White House said he would meet with Swiss President Guy Parmelin.
The summit is expected to produce a joint council to address questions of trade and technology to check China's economic practices.
Some of the topics expected to be focuses of Biden's summit include global health security, economic recovery, climate change and policy challenges in Belarus, Ethiopia, Iran and Venezuela.
The European meetings are part of a whirlwind trip for Biden that began with the G7 summit in Britain last week and will conclude Wednesday with a bilateral meeting between the American president and the Kremlin leader Putin.
Ahead of their meeting Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin will meet with reporters after the closed summit.
"I do not know if Mr. Biden will hold his press conference but I can officially confirm to you that the press conference by Vladimir Putin will take place, following the results of the meeting," Peskov said Tuesday, according to the state-run TASS news agency.
The White House said Biden will also meet with the press, although it's unclear whether it will be a joint news conference.