Biden meets with Spain’s Sanchez, discusses Ukraine war

U.S. President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez shake hands in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 12, 2023.

By Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez underscored their support for Ukraine in the war with Russia on Friday during a White House meeting that also touched on migration and defense cooperation.

During a meeting in the Oval Office, Biden said that “together we’re supporting Ukraine,” and Sanchez squarely blamed the war on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We support Ukraine. Of course we work for a lasting and just peace that respects fully the international law and also the principles of the U.N. charter,” Sanchez said. “Make no mistake, in this war there is an aggressor and a victim, and the aggressor is President Putin.”

Sanchez has expressed “unconditional support” for Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and backs his peace proposal, which includes demands to restore Ukraine’s territory to the status quo before Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

But while Madrid agrees with Washington on the illegality of Russia’s February 2022 invasion, Sanchez was expected to convey the divergent views of China and Brazil and propose listening to the views of non-NATO nations hurt by the war, a Spanish diplomatic source said ahead of the meeting.

The United States has reacted skeptically to China’s 12-point peace plan, saying if Beijing were serious about its first point on respecting sovereignty it should urge Russia to withdraw.

Similarly, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva drew U.S. criticism for suggesting the West had been “encouraging” war by arming Ukraine.

A White House official said China and Brazil could play a role in eventual peace talks, but stressed that an end to the war must respect the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We support Zelenskiy’s call for a just end to Russia’s war of choice that respects certain principles, including sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the official said ahead of the meeting between Biden and Sanchez.

At the start of their meeting, Biden noted Washington and Madrid had signed a defense cooperation agreement and both countries were dealing with migration issues.

“We’re both facing the challenges of migration in the Western Hemisphere. You’re doing a heck of a job,” Biden said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Additional reporting by Belén Carreño; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien)

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