President Biden urges return to power-sharing during speech in Belfast

US President Joe Biden has said he hopes for the return of power-sharing at Stormont during a speech to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

He made the keynote speech after officially opening Ulster University's new £350m campus in the city centre on Wednesday morning.

Mr Biden said the campus was "situated in an inner section where conflict and bloodshed once held a terrible sway".

"To have a glass building here in 1991 was highly unlikely, where barbed wire once sliced up the city, today we find cathedral of learning, built of glass and let the shining light in and out.

"It has a profound impact for someone to come back and see it," he explained.

In a carefully worded plea he said he believes the democratic institution established in the Good Friday Agreement remain "critical to the future of Northern Ireland".

“It’s a decision for you to make, not for me to make," he added.

But he said “an effective, devolved government that reflects the people of Northern Ireland and is accountable to them, a government that works to find ways through hard problems together” would help draw “even greater opportunity” to the region.

“I hope the assembly and the executive will soon be restored,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, the US President met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

When he arrived at Ulster University, Mr Biden had a brief meeting with the largest political parties in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Alliance leader Naomi Long, UUP leader Doug Beattie and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood each met with the president briefly.

When asked earlier on Wednesday by reporters what he would tell the parties, Mr Biden said he would "listen".

Northern Ireland's Assembly is not currently sitting due to political stalemate over the Northern Ireland Protocol - a trade deal agreed between the UK government and European Union.

Joe Biden faced a volley of questions first thing on Wednesday morning when he met with Mr Sunak.

The prime minister, smiling, sat at a table with the US president as the pair met over cups of tea.

It's the third in-person meeting the US president has had with the prime minister.

It's understood that they did not discuss a free trade agreement during their meeting but focused on Northern Ireland and the war in Ukraine.

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