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Ireland's prime minister tells Biden he wants a cease-fire in Gaza

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was direct with President Joe Biden on Friday that discussing Gaza and the need for a cease-fire was high on his list for their Oval Office meeting.

"You'll know my view that we need to have a cease-fire as soon as possible to get food and medicine in," Varadkar told Biden, who interjected to say that he agreed.

The Irish prime minister continued that a cease-fire is necessary "to get hostages out. And we need to talk about how we can make that happen and move towards a two-state solution which I think is the only way we'll have lasting peace and security."

Varadkar has repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, often citing Ireland's own history with imperialism and occupation. His position goes further than that of Biden, who has backed a six-week, temporary cease-fire to free hostages and ease the humanitarian crisis for Palestinian civilians.

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Biden, who spoke before the Taoiseach, also mentioned Gaza in his own remarks. Biden noted the the countries are working together to increase aid to Gaza, but added, "We both know there's a whole lot more that has to be done."

The tone of the Oval Office meeting was in contrast to the traditionally light-hearted exchanges in the past where Biden touted his long and proud Irish roots. Still, Biden (who donned a shamrock tie ahead of St. Patrick's Day) took a moment to quote his Irish grandfather.

"My grandfather Finnegan used to say, "May the hinge of our friendship never go rusty,'" Biden said. "He had all these sayings, you know, the Irish in America sometimes think they're more Irish than the Irish, but the- -- and I don't think we're gonna let it go rusty."

Varadkar, talking to the press afterwards, called it a "a very substantive meeting." While he wouldn't get into specifics, the prime minister said Biden gave him a thorough readout of U.S. efforts to secure a cease-fire.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden meets with Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar at the White House, as part of annual Saint Patrick's day events, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden meets with Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar at the White House, as part of annual Saint Patrick's day events, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
PHOTO: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to reporters outside of the West Wing of the White House following a meeting with President Joe Biden, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to reporters outside of the West Wing of the White House following a meeting with President Joe Biden, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The president also emphasized in the Oval Office that both countries were "standing together" to support Ukraine. Varadkar said that he appreciated America's "leadership" on Ukraine, but also urged for continued aid as a $60 billion package remains stalled in the House.

Both Biden and Taoiseach made the case for continued assistance for Ukraine aid, as well as for Israel and Gaza, at the annual traditional Friends of Ireland lunch with lawmakers on Capitol Hill where such current political issues are rarely raised.

"I urge you to send me the national security bill now," Biden said. "The bill includes funding for Ukraine and Israel and maybe really important humanitarian assistance to Gaza. They badly, badly need it. And the sends a clear message that America stands up for freedom and we bow down to no one. To no one in the world."

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House Speaker Mike Johnson also noted there are international conflicts that need to be addressed.

"And certainly, at this time, in many ways, our hearts are heavy in spite of the fun fellowship because stability has been threatened in Europe and the Middle East, and our allies and friends, such as Israel and Taiwan, continue to fight for their very right to exist" Johnson said.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden is greeted by (L-R) , Rep. Richard Neal, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and Rep. Mike Kelly as the president arrives at the U.S. Capitol, March 15, 2023, in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden is greeted by (L-R) , Rep. Richard Neal, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and Rep. Mike Kelly as the president arrives at the U.S. Capitol, March 15, 2023, in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Earlier Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff continued the tradition of hosting Varadkar and his spouse Matthew Barrett at the residence for breakfast ahead of Sunday's holiday to celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relationships.

In particular, Harris commended Varadkar for his work in office on Ukraine and Gaza, praising Ireland for being "a leader in providing food, water and medicine to the people of Gaza."

Varadkar returned the praise for Harris on Gaza and her "great courage and leadership in recent weeks," when she spoke "publicly in favor of a cease-fire in Gaza."

Harris called for an immediate, temporary cease-fire earlier this month when she spoke on the 59th commemoration of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama. It was some of the administration's most forceful public remarks on the matter at the time, as she cited the "immense scale of suffering" in Gaza.

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PHOTO: Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar speaks during a breakfast hosted by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the vice president's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
PHOTO: Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar speaks during a breakfast hosted by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the vice president's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff welcome Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar and his partner Matthew Barrett at the vice president's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)
PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff welcome Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar and his partner Matthew Barrett at the vice president's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory, March 15, 2024, in Washington. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Harris and Varadkar also exchanged praise for their work with the LGBTQ community, with Harris noting Varadkar's unique role as an openly LGBTQ leaders on the world stage.

"To see you and Mr. Barrett on the world stage is important for so many reasons, as our long march for progress continues on," Harris said.

Varadkar praised President Biden for his backing of same-sex marriage back in 2012, saying he remembered that infamous "Meet the Press" interview well when Biden preempted then-President Barack Obama in announcing his support.

Despite tensions on Israel and Gaza looming over Varadkar's trip, the event at the residence had a good dose of humor. Harris joked off the top of her remarks that after their visit last year, she and Emhoff decided that the Taoiseach and Barrett would be their "new couple friends," drawing a big laugh from the room.

Varadkar also noted how difficult it can be to fill the number two role in government, joking that after serving as both deputy prime Minister and prime minister, "I'm not going to lie, I know which one I prefer."

ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

Ireland's prime minister tells Biden he wants a cease-fire in Gaza originally appeared on abcnews.go.com