UN General Assembly week casts a shadow on date for Queen Elizabeth's state funeral

New Zealand's Jacinda Arden to prioritise representing her country in paying tribute to the British monarch

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United Nations officials are understood to have rebuffed a British inquiry about postponing the start of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York in mid-September after a potential clash with the date of the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, offered his sympathies over the death of the British monarch on Thursday but communicated to UK diplomats that the date of the annual meeting, the first full-scale gathering since the pandemic, could not be shifted.

According to the traditional formula, the most likely date for the royal funeral is Monday, September 19, the day before the high-level debate, in which world leaders address the session, is due to kick off.

Logistics and planning means this is a nightmare for a cavalcade of world leaders who were planning to head to New York.

There are 15 countries that called the 96-year-old queen their head of state, and more than 50 nations in the Commonwealth.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, is one of those who has said he is going to the funeral.

“I can confirm the president of the European Council will attend the state funeral of the queen,” a spokesman said.

US President Joe Biden responded “yes, probably” when asked if he would attend. Countries that are still ruled by the UK crown are also expected to make the funeral.

New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern had been due to fly to New York on September 17 but is now going to London first.

“I will prioritise along with the governor general, doing our duty representing New Zealand and passing on the condolences of our whole nation,” she said.

At the UN, the Security Council stood in silent tribute at the start of a meeting on Ukraine. France’s ambassador Nicolas de Riviere, the council president, sent condolences on behalf of its 15 members.

He said Queen Elizabeth presided “over a period of historic changes both for her country and the world … Her life was devoted to the service of her country”.

The queen visited the UN headquarters twice, including in 2010 when she addressed the general assembly.

“I hope that when future generations judge our actions, our sincerity, our willingness to lead and our determination to do the right thing will stand the test of time,” she said.

“In tomorrow's world, we must all work together and more vigorously than ever before if we really want to be United Nations.”

Also up in the air are the plans of Liz Truss, the new UK prime minister, who was planning to make her debut on the international stage at UNGA after having taken office on Tuesday.

King Charles III is due to set the date for the funeral on Saturday. He automatically become king on the death of his mother but the funeral arrangements cannot be made until the Accession Council meeting that confirms him in the role.

This gathering is usually convened at St James’s Palace in London within 24 hours of the death of a sovereign.

However, it will be held later because the announcement of the queen's death did not come until early evening on Thursday, meaning there was not enough time to set the plans in motion for Friday morning.

A white rose placed by French President Emmanuel Macron near a portrait of Queen Elizabeth at the British Embassy in Paris, France, on Friday.
Updated: September 09, 2022, 1:51 PM
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