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20220925 192741

Analysis | Queen’s funeral becomes her own UN assembly

thehourlynews 2 weeks ago 0
20220925 192741

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In a bygone age, Buckingham Palace was at the height of world power, if only for a day. Hundreds of world leaders and dignitaries visited King Charles III at the main residence of the British royal family in London ahead of the funeral of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on Monday. High-level representatives from nearly 200 countries and territories are expected to attend the funeral, including President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, heads of government and state from near and far, and a diverse cast of kings and queens from other nations.

London authorities believe that around 1 million mourners will pour into the central areas of the city, filling the streets in an attempt to watch the queen’s coffin proceed on a gun carriage towards Westminster Abbey, before arriving at his final resting place in the Chapel of Saint George. in Windsor. Britain hasn’t staged events like this since Winston Churchill’s state funeral in 1965. The world has probably not seen a commemoration of this magnitude since December 2013, when tens of thousands of people packed a stadium in Johannesburg to celebrate. the life and legacy of anti-apartheid hero and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The uniqueness of the moment is compounded by its timing. Many of the world leaders gathered in London have had to rush to New York, where the annual high-level session of the UN General Assembly is about to begin. The crowds of VIPs are creating all sorts of headaches for palace protocol staff and those at the UK Foreign Office who receive requests from delegations of nearly 500 visiting foreign dignitaries. They have been forced to put eminent figures such as the Emperor of Japan on shuttle buses for the funeral amid severe logistical constraints.

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“All the world leaders are on an outing,” British comedian Jimmy Carr joked to my colleagues. “And do you know who is really in charge? During those 45 minutes, the leader of the world is the bus driver. ‘My bus, my rules! Sit in the back. North Korea, get along with South Korea. Sit down! China, what are you doing in the back? Sit down!'”

Why is the world so fascinated with Queen Elizabeth II?

North Korea was not actually invited, while China is sending Vice President Wang Qishan, not President Xi Jinping, to the funeral. There are other notable, if not surprising, absences: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were not invited to the funeral, yet another sign of the Kremlin’s isolation since it launched its grand invasion of Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry described Putin’s lack of an invitation as “deeply immoral.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to have chosen not to attend amid a backlash from activists over the royals’ checkered human rights record. But for those who have made the trip, the meeting, similar to Mandela’s funeral when former President Barack Obama shook hands with his Cuban counterpart, may prove fertile ground for geopolitical encounters.

Some leaders have already landed in hot water for impropriety or for skipping the highly-valued queue to pay their respects to the queen in state. Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan angered British tabloids when he was seen posing for a photo taken by one of his associates in front of the queen’s coffin. The right-wing Daily Mail mocked Antigua and Barbuda’s “rogue” prime minister, Gaston Browne, who shook hands with the king at Buckingham Palace days after reviving plans for a referendum to decide whether to make his nation a republic.

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For Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the event offered the far-right firebrand a chance to strut his stuff on the world stage in the final weeks of a deeply divisive and heated election campaign. Bolsonaro has previously reprimanded Charles for the latter’s environmental campaign. On Sunday, Bolsonaro addressed local supporters of a balcony in mayfair about the evils of abortion and “gender ideology”. Domestic politics will also overshadow his use of the bully pulpit in New York later in the week.

Forget the private jet and the limo. Leaders relegated to buses for the queen’s funeral.

For British Prime Minister Liz Truss, the moment has offered her a kind of respite.. The queen died just two days after appointing Truss as prime minister and national grief over her passing has subsumed what could have been a ruthless first few weeks in power, amid a cost-of-living crisis fueled by inflation and imminent industrial action. .

Truss used the weekend before the funeral to discreetly welcome several visiting world leaders to 10 Downing Street, kicking off her turn as prime minister in geopolitics. That included a somewhat encouraging meeting with Ireland’s prime minister, who is locked in tense discussions with Britain’s Tory government over their differences over the post-Brexit deal governing conditions in Northern Ireland.

“The fact that so many leaders from around the world… are flooding London gives the new prime minister plenty of time for soft diplomacy, those quiet conversations before and after the funeral, that will help her achieve her goal, if possible, of ‘global Britain,’” British political historian Anthony Seldon told the Associated Press.

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The funeral forced Truss and Biden to postpone a meeting scheduled for this weekend to later in the week when world leaders make the trek across the Atlantic to the United Nations. The world’s preeminent international organization also did its part by honoring the queen with a day of speeches and remembrance at a General Assembly session last Thursday.

Secretary-General António Guterres described Elizabeth as a figure who “defied geopolitical gravity” and “an unrivaled pillar on the world stage” for seven decades.

“When our institution and Queen Elizabeth were young, she stood on this very podium and called on leaders to demonstrate their devotion to the ideals of the Charter of the United Nations,” Guterres said, before quoting her last speech. before this body in 2010, where he urged that, “in the world of tomorrow, we must work together as hard as ever if we are to truly be the United Nations.”

A version of that now meets at his funeral. “Even in death, she is still working, isn’t she?” Christopher Matthews, an Edinburgh taxi driver, reflected to my colleagues.


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