Sánchez and Spanish King to meet with Biden before Madrid NATO summit

President Biden will meet with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and King Felipe VI ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of the month.

Sánchez and Spanish King to meet with Biden before Madrid NATO summit
US President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at the G20 World Leaders Summit in 2021. Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

The President of the United States Joe Biden is set to meet with both the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and King Felipe VI ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June.

In what will be the Biden’s first official trip to Spain since winning the Presidency, he will meet with the Prime Minister and King to “reaffirm the strong bilateral relationship” between Spain and the U.S as soon as he lands in the capital, a White House spokesperson told the Spanish press.

Although the dates of the bilateral meetings are yet to be confirmed, it is believed that Biden will arrive in Madrid after attending the G7 summit in Germany, and before the start of the Atlantic Alliance Summit next Wednesday June 29th.

Sánchez spoke with Biden by phone this week, reportedly about preparations for the summit and Spain’s role in providing aid and weapons to the war effort in Ukraine. 

READ ALSO: US plans to strike Central American refugee resettlement deal with Spain

“I have just talked with President Biden about the next NATO Summit in Madrid, a historic event in which the Alliance will strengthen its unity and cohesion, in defense of democracy and freedom,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter.

Recent phone call aside, the meeting comes after Sánchez was shunned by Washington during most of the Ukraine crisis. It is believed Biden spoke to leaders by phone from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy to coordinate the response to Russia’s invasion, but not Spain.

American diplomats have since tried to play down Sánchez’s absence from the coordination calls, suggesting they, or some of them at least, were made within the framework of the G7, something Spain is not a part of.

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Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali's Foreign Minister said Saturday he had spoken with his Spanish counterpart after a row over comments the Spaniard made about the possibility of a NATO operation in the African country.

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop wrote in a tweet that he had spoken by phone with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares about the comments, which were made in a radio interview.

“He denied the remarks and expressed his attachment to friendly relations and cooperation with Mali,” wrote Diop.

Spain moved to calm the row Saturday, a day after a day the military regime in Bamako had summoned their ambassador for an explanation.

“Spain did not ask during the NATO summit or at any other time for an intervention, mission or any action by the Alliance in Mali,” said a statement from Spain’s embassy.

The row blew up over remarks by Albares in an interview Thursday with Spain’s RNE radio. Asked if a NATO mission in Mali could be ruled out, Albares said: “No, we can’t rule it out.”

“It hasn’t been on the table at the talks in Madrid because this is a summit that is laying out, so to speak, the framework for NATO action.”

“If it were necessary and if there was to be a threat to our security, of course it would be done,” he added.

Albares was speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit as it drew to a close in Madrid. Diop had told state broadcaster ORTM on Friday that Bamako had summoned the Spanish ambassador to lodge a strong protest over the remarks.

READ ALSO: Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

“These remarks are unacceptable, unfriendly, serious,” said Diop, because “they tend to encourage an aggression against an independent and sovereign country”.

“We have asked for explanations, a clarification of this position from the Spanish government,” he added.

At the Madrid summit, Spain pushed hard to prioritise the topic of the threat to NATO’s southern flank caused by the unrest in the Sahel — the vast territory stretching across the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert, incorporating countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Jihadist attacks there are pushing increasing numbers of people to flee north towards Europe, with Spain one of the main points of entry there.

READ ALSO: Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

At the summit, NATO acknowledged the alliance’s strategic interest in the Middle East, north Africa and the Sahel.

Mali has since 2012 been rocked by jihadist insurgencies. Violence began in the north and then spread to the centre and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.