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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday agreed to deepen close economic ties between their countries, pledging to accelerate the clean energy transition and strengthen critical mineral supply chains.

The two leaders also discussed their “unwavering support for the people in Ukraine,” Biden told reporters at a joint news conference with Sunak, an opportunity not afforded to every world leader who visits the White House.

Biden and the British prime minister released the “Atlantic Declaration,” which Sunak described as a first-of-its-kind economic partnership on issues like artificial intelligence, climate change and protecting technologies that would help shape the future.

“I know some people have wondered what kind of partner Britain would be after it left the EU,” Sunak said. “I’d say, judge us by our actions. We’re as committed to our values as ever, as reliable of an ally as ever, as attractive an investment destination as ever.”

Biden hailed the intensity of the economic relationship as an “enormous source of strength” that underpinned broader ties between the NATO allies. “We discussed how we can continue to adapt and upgrade our partnership to ensure our countries remain at the cutting edge of a rapidly changing world,” he said.

The two leaders shared laughs and more sober sentiments when they met in the Oval Office about the close relations between prior leaders from the two countries as they previewed topics for the meeting, including AI and Northern Ireland, as well as joint economic and security interests, including in Asia.

The meeting, their fourth in as many months, came as Western officials sought to ascertain whether Russia was responsible for the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, which has displaced thousands of people and caused major economic and environmental damage. Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the dam’s destruction.

Biden and Sunak both underscored continued support for Ukraine to ensure its long-term security and deter aggression after the war ends.

Sunak said Ukraine’s supporters needed to send a strong signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that their backing for Kyiv will not weaken as the war goes on.

“We’re not going anywhere. We will be here for as long as it takes,” he said. “And hopefully that will speed up the calculation in his mind that he should withdraw his forces.”

Biden and Sunak last met in Hiroshima, Japan, at the Group of Seven summit last month. They also met in Belfast in April and in San Diego in March at a trilateral event marking the defense partnership of the United States, Australia and Britain.

Thursday’s discussion focused heavily on ensuring the safety of AI and other emerging technologies, Sunak told reporters, saying Britain would host the first summit on the issue this autumn to discuss how the risks of AI can be mitigated through internationally coordinated action.

Sunak had pushed to strengthen trading ties between Britain and the United States, keen to show some progress after the Biden administration quashed any speedy prospect of a post-Brexit free trade agreement between the two countries.

Asked about the absence of a bigger trade deal, Sunak said the “specific, targeted measures” now being discussed were the right thing to focus on since they would remove red tape and facilitate billions of pounds of new investment in Britain.

Sunak also sought Biden’s backing for defense minister Ben Wallace’s bid to become the next secretary-general of NATO. Biden said it remains to be seen whether it’s time for a British leader of NATO, adding that the organization’s members need to build consensus on a future leader.

 

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Andrea Shalal and Rami Ayyub in Washington, and Kate Holton in London; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)

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