The UK is facing a diplomatic backlash over VIP travel arrangements for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, with many world leaders now seeking special permission to bypass arrangements, according to The Times.
The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) has said that foreign leaders will be parking their vehicles in west London near Heathrow Airport. There, they will be picked up by buses and then escorted to Westminster where the funeral will take place on Monday.
Diplomats from five countries, including some from the G7 group, told Politico they wanted exemptions for their leaders, citing old age or security reasons.
The travel protocol, which was sent to foreign embassies over the weekend and obtained by Politico, will not apply to US President Joe Biden, a UK government source later confirmed with The Times.
Biden is expected to arrive at the funeral in his armored limousine, also known as “the beast.” Other leaders with special security requirements, such as Israeli President Isaac Herzog, will also be able to bring their own transport, the same British source said.
“I’m trying to get ours exempt from the bus,” admitted a UK-based ambassador, “but not having much luck so far,” he added, speaking on the condition of anonymity to The Times.
“Significant concern” also exists among leaders about the possibility of sitting next to a leader from a hostile country on the shared VIP buses, another diplomat warned.
A third ambassador, representing a European country whose leader does not mind using the bus, said some heads of state unaccustomed to sharing a coach would see the plan as a challenge to their “manhood.”
World leaders attending the Queen’s funeral
Commonwealth leaders who will be in attendance for the Queen’s funeral include Australian PM Anthony Albanese, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trinidad and Tobago President Paula-Mae Weekes, and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have confirmed they will be in attendance as has European Council President Charles Michel.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeo, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh are also on the guest list.
They’ll join leaders from Austria, Germany, Poland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, and many other nations.
Representatives from Russia, Belarus, and Myanmar have reportedly not been invited to attend the funeral, nor have the leaders of Afghanistan, Syria, and Venezuela, an official source told Reuters.
The same source said the UK was inviting a representative from North Korea.
Greece to be represented by President Sakellaropoulou
President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Thursday contacted His Majesty King Charles II be phone and expressed her condolences for the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Sakellaropoulou also congratulated the king on his accession to the throne and wished him every success in his new duties, expressing her conviction that the excellent relations between Greece and the UK will improve even further under his reign.
The President will visit the British Embassy in Athens on Friday in order to sign the book of condolences for the death of the Queen and will attend the Queen’s funeral in London on Monday, September 19th.