21:21 GMT12 May 2021
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    The remarks were made during Antony Blinken’s joint press conference in London with his UK counterpart Dominic Raab, who said that they had discussed “a full range of issues” related to “the major areas of common interest”.

    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has touted London as Washington’s closest ally, but added that Britain should focus on maintaining “stability” in Northern Ireland, which was recently hit by Brexit-related tensions.

    “The United States has no closer ally, no closer partner than the United Kingdom, and I’m glad of the chance to say that again here today”, Blinken stressed during a joint Downing Street conference with his British counterpart Dominic Raab on Monday.

    He added that the two countries are currently “connected by ties of friendship, family, history, shared values, and shared sacrifice”.

    © REUTERS / POOL
    Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hold a joint news conference at Downing Street following their bilateral meeting in London, Britain May 3, 2021 during the G7 foreign ministers meeting.
    “We’re connected. It’s often said but always important to reaffirm”, Blinken pointed out.

    The top US diplomat also touched upon Afghanistan, saying that the US and the UK “stood shoulder to shoulder for nearly 20 years, sharing a mission and having each other’s backs. We’ll never forget it”.

    In April, President Joe Biden announced plans to fully withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by 11 September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, despite the 2020 US-Taliban peace deal having set 1 May 2021 as the deadline for the pullout.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in turn, last month revealed the alliance's plans to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by 1 May, adding that NATO intends to complete the withdrawal within a few months.

    In this file photo taken on February 21, 2010, US marines with 1/3 marine Charlie Company patrol past a Danish army Leopard 2A5EK tank as they clear Improvised Explosive Device (IED)s from a main route in Trikh Nawar on the North Eastern outskirts of Marjah in Afghanistan
    © AFP 2021 / PATRICK BAZ
    In this file photo taken on February 21, 2010, US marines with 1/3 marine Charlie Company patrol past a Danish army Leopard 2A5EK tank as they clear Improvised Explosive Device (IED)s from a main route in Trikh Nawar on the North Eastern outskirts of Marjah in Afghanistan
    On the issue of Northern Ireland, Blinken said that “like several US presidents before him, President Biden has been unequivocal in his support for the Good Friday Agreement which was a historic achievement and one that we should protect”.

    The Good Friday Agreement is a document that was inked in 1998 between the British and Irish governments, as well as most of the political parties in Northern Ireland, on how Northern Ireland should be governed. The agreement is widely known as a document that brought decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland to an end.

    During the London press conference, the US secretary of state described his country as “a steadfast supporter of a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland, in which all communities have a voice and can enjoy the gains of the hard-won peace”.

    “As Brexit-related provisions of the Northern Ireland protocol begin to be implemented, we will continue to encourage the UK to prioritise political and economic stability”, Blinken underscored.

    Northern Ireland Riots

    The top US diplomat spoke a few weeks after violence escalated in Northern Ireland, where members of the unionist community, who wish for the country to remain part of the UK, hurled stones, fireworks, and petrol bombs at police officers during sporadic clashes.

    Police block a road near the Peace Wall in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, April 8, 2021. Authorities in Northern Ireland sought to restore calm Thursday after Protestant and Catholic youths in Belfast hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and each other
    © AP Photo / Peter Morrison
    Police block a road near the Peace Wall in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, April 8, 2021. Authorities in Northern Ireland sought to restore calm Thursday after Protestant and Catholic youths in Belfast hurled bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at police and each other

    The UK government's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, told the House of Commons in mid-April that at least 88 police officers were injured in the clashes, and that 18 people had been arrested.

    The unrest started after the Northern Ireland prosecutor's office refused to charge members of the republican party Sinn Fein, who despite coronavirus restrictions attended the funeral of IRA member Bobby Storey.

    The developments turned into violent protests as unionists were dismayed by the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, a section of the Brexit trade deal reached between London and Brussels in late 2020, which among other things envisages that there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland in the post-Brexit era.

    Unionists have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the trade deal rules stipulating that animal and food products entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK must undergo checks upon arrival to ensure compliance with EU regulations. Since the agreement came into force, some supermarkets in Northern Ireland have suffered food shortages.

    Related:

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    Blinken Says Troop Pullout From Afghanistan ‘Doesn’t Mean We’re Leaving’
    Irish PM Warns of 'Damage Going Much Further' in Northern Ireland If Brexit Weaponisation Persists
    BoJo Threatens to Tear Up Parts of Northern Ireland Protocol If EU ‘Dogmatic’ on Easing Trade Checks
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    ally, press conference, Antony Blinken, Dominic Raab, Britain, US
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