U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “not in July, but, in August,” according to recent statements by George Kent, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported Tuesday.
“When President Biden and President Zelensky spoke for the second time, President Biden suggested that the meeting be held in July or later in the summer. That is, the meeting will be a little later. Not in July, but, I think, in August,” Kent told RFE/RL on July 17.
RFE/RL asked Kent “if there were any obstacles to the meeting between Zelensky and Biden.”
Objecting to the suggestion, Kent replied, “the only question now is to find time in President Biden’s schedule.”
“As I said, the meeting will be in the summer. But not now,” he said.
Kent referred to a much anticipated in-person meeting between Biden and Zelensky, which would be the first such encounter between the two heads of state.
Zelensky issued a Twitter statement on June 7 revealing Biden had invited him to visit the White House in Washington, D.C., “in July” during a phone conversation the two shared earlier that same day.
“Thank you @POTUS @JoeBiden for inviting me to visit the @WhiteHouse in July during our phone conversation. I look forward to this meeting to discuss ways to expand strategic cooperation between Ukraine and #USA,” Zelensky tweeted at the time.
In a press release summarizing the key points of their June 7 phone call, the Ukrainian office of the presidency wrote, “Volodymyr Zelenskyy accepted Joe Biden’s invitation to visit the United States in July this year.”
“The date in late July is being discussed. The format is a full-fledged official visit of the President of Ukraine to the United States …, which will include not only a meeting with Biden, but also a number of other events,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told the Ukraine 24 news channel on June 11.
Biden and Zelensky spoke on June 7 ahead of a June 16 meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to the summit, Zelensky implored Biden to meet with him in person, first through comments in a June 6 interview with the U.S.-based news site Axios.
Ukraine and Russia are regional foes and much of Zelensky’s urgency to meet in person with Biden surrounds Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe, which threatens Ukrainian natural gas prospects. Zelensky told Axios on June 6 he was “very unpleasantly surprised” by Biden’s remarks in May indicating he would not sanction the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.