US secretary of state and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to hold talks in London

Sarah Harvey
·3-min read
US secretary of state Antony Blinken (AP)
US secretary of state Antony Blinken (AP)

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will hold face-to-face talks on trade, Iran and China with Joe Biden’s secretary of state ahead of discussions between G7 foreign ministers in the UK.

Antony Blinken will be in London for talks on Monday as the US and Britain forge a fresh relationship following the departure of Donald Trump from the White House.

The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a post-Brexit trade deal are likely to feature, as is Iran, where the nuclear deal is a key issue and so too are citizens being detained there, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. On Sunday, Iranian state TV reported Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is to be freed by Iran with the UK paying £400 million to Tehran.

The first in-person meeting of G7 foreign ministers will then begin on Tuesday, with allies including Canada France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the EU attending.

India’s external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will also be there, as the UK commits support to the nation dealing with a worsening surge of coronavirus.

Ahead of the meeting, the Foreign Office said the G7 ministers will invest $15 billion (£10.9 billion) in development finance over the next two years to help women in developing countries access jobs, build resilient businesses and recover from the impacts of Covid-19.

They are also expected to sign up to new targets to get 40 million more girls into school, and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 in poorer nations by 2026.

But the commitments come as Mr Raab faces sustained criticism for cuts to foreign aid, from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent, citing the financial impact of the pandemic.

The cuts to overseas aid spending have been described as “devastating” for women and girls around the world.

We'll be taking action to ensure fair access to vaccines around the world, setting global girls’ education targets, agreeing ambitious action on climate change and developing new measures to prevent famine

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

As well as the G7 members, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and South Africa have also been invited as the UK tries to deepen ties with the Indo-Pacific region.

Mr Raab on Sunday defended the cut to foreign aid spending as “necessary” due to the “seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy”.

But, as the effects of the cuts have trickled out, the United Nations Population Fund blasted the 85 per cent cut to its reproductive health agency as “devastating” for women, girls and their families.

On Saturday, it emerged Unicef will have its UK funding cut by about 60%.

The United Nations agency warned that the world’s most vulnerable children will “suffer the consequences” of the Government’s move.

A leaked memo also suggested that the UK will slash bilateral funding for overseas water, sanitation and hygiene projects by more than 80 per cent – a move WaterAid described as “savage”.

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