Barack Obama and David Cameron are set to discuss foreign policy
3:54am UK, Tuesday March 13, 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron, his wife Samantha, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Chancellor George Osborne will arrive in Washington today for a two-day official visit.
The trip is one level below a full state visit, which only the Queen as Britain’s head of state is entitled to in America.
The Camerons have been invited by Barack Obama following the US President’s visit to the UK in May last year.
The Camerons and the Obamas in Downing Street last May
The White House says it will strengthen the special relationship between the US and its “closest partner in the world”.
It will include an official ceremonial welcome including a 19-gun salute, a full state dinner and an unusual flying visit to a basketball tournament in Ohio.
Mr Obama will be whisking the Prime Minister to Dayton Ohio in Air Force One to view the March Madness championships of the college basketball season.
Mrs Cameron will be hosted by America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, on a series of visits to schools, helping promote her drive to prevent childhood obesity.
Away from the ceremony and symbolism, the agenda will be dominated by foreign policy and economic issues.
The world’s failure to prevent the Syrian regime butchering its own people will be one issue the two leaders will need to address.
Events in Afghanistan have also made for a sombre backdrop.
The killing of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier is complicating efforts to plan for Nato’s withdrawal from the country.
There is also mounting concern in Washington about Iran’s nuclear programme and the possibility Israel may launch a unilateral operation to strike its facilities with potentially devastating consequences.
Mr Obama will be grateful for any British help in containing both the Iranian nuclear threat and the possibility of Israel taking matters into its own hands.
Both leaders will seek to exploit the political benefits of the visit.
Mr Obama can profit from arriving in a key election battleground state with a world leader on his wing when the two land in Ohio.
With Europe in serious economic and political trouble, Mr Cameron can highlight his party’s assiduous cultivation of a more powerful ally on this side of the Atlantic and stress the economic benefits that brings in these troubled times.
The two men are thought to have a businesslike relationship, speaking to each when necessary but avoiding the controversial cosiness Tony Blair shared with George Bush.
But they have plenty in common and a friendship that this visit is likely to deepen.