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Planning for Monday’s state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II has ramped up in recent days with invitations being sent across the globe.
In what The Independent said will be “one of the largest diplomatic gatherings in decades, nearly 500 foreign dignitaries” are due to attend the event, with only three countries not receiving an invitation. Russia and Belarus have been shunned following their involvement in the invasion of Ukraine, while Myanmar, formerly a British colony now ruled by the military, will also not be represented.
Downing Street and the Foreign Office “had been keen to stress that the event would not be used as a diplomatic exercise”, said The Times. But it has now emerged that Liz Truss will “hold a small number of bilateral meetings with key allies over the weekend”, said the paper.
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So who’s invited and what will that mean for the UK’s foreign diplomacy?
What do the papers say?
China’s invitation has caused some consternation. “Confusion abounded in the Foreign Office,” according to Politico, “over whether Chinese premier Xi Jinping had been invited.” In a message seen by the website, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly suggested an invitation had only been extended to the Chinese ambassador, which “would have been a diplomatic snub of the kind reserved for countries with which the UK has abysmal relations including North Korea, Iran and Nicaragua”, said Politico.
Eventually the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office made clear that an invitation has been extended to Xi because the heads of states of all countries with which the UK has full diplomatic relations have been invited (with those exceptions of Russia, Belarus and Myanmar).
But senior Conservatives have criticised the decision, according to The Independent, with the party’s former leader Iain Duncan Smith saying: “How can they ban Belarus, Russia and Myanmar and not say no to China? They have a huge record of human rights abuses, including what we believe to be genocide, smashing churches and persecuting Christians?”
While it is not thought that Xi will attend the funeral, coming as it does soon after his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry said yesterday that Beijing was “actively considering” sending a high-level delegation to the funeral.
Questions have also been raised this week about the potential involvement of former US president Donald Trump, who issued what Insider described as “an effusive statement” soon after the Queen’s death calling her a “grand and beautiful lady”.
It appears, however, that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have received two personal invitations, rather than being asked to form a US delegation, according to CNN, quashing the potential of a US delegation involving Trump. But in what could be considered something of a snub to Trump, there has been speculation that the Obamas might receive “private invites”, said the BBC.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, will also attend, despite the fact that “in the past year there has been a low-key row about whether the EU would be granted full diplomatic status in the post-Brexit UK”, reported The Guardian.
Liz Truss is expected to meet President Biden “as well as other key UK allies such as Anthony Albanese, the Australian leader, and Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister”, said The Times.
But other world leaders “such as Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, and Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, are not expected to come as they are not formal heads of state”, said the paper.
One of the most notable group of attendees will be among the Australian delegation, with ten citizens who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities receiving invitations. One of those selected, Val Dempsey, told The Independent: “As it turned out, it was at the direct request of the Queen. It was in her wishes that ordinary people should come to the funeral and I’ve gotta tell you, I’m extremely ordinary. There’s nothing flash about me.”
Potentially one of the most interesting meetings will be between Truss and President Macron as France is “hoping to open a new chapter in Anglo-French relations after the departure of Boris Johnson”, said The Guardian.
Generally, though, it appears that the death of the Queen will not be seen as a chance for formal bilateral meetings, “however tempting given the crisis in Ukraine”, added the paper.
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