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The Prince of Wales told Commonwealth leaders that whether to retain the Queen as head of state or create a republic was “a matter for each member country to decide”.

Charles made the comments during the opening ceremony of a summit of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and Presidents in Rwanda. He said he believed such fundamental changes could be made “calmly and without hard feelings”.

His comments are likely to be interpreted as an acknowledgment of the forces already on the move, as a number of Caribbean nations have suggested they could abandon the British monarchy and elect their own heads of state.

Barbados took the historic decision to replace the Queen as head of state in November last year and elected its first president in a ceremony attended by the Prince.

He represents the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), where his visit was overshadowed by a row over reported comments he made criticizing the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda .

The prince’s office at Clarence House refused to be drawn to comments from Boris Johnson, who on Thursday appeared to lash out at the royal and those who attacked his plans to forcibly return asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The Prime Minister said ahead of a meeting with Charles on Friday: ‘People need to keep an open mind about politics, critics need to keep an open mind about politics.

In response, a Clarence House spokesman said: ‘As we have said previously, we will not comment on any alleged remarks made privately other than to say the prince is politically neutral. Politics is the business of government.

In the end, the hype meeting after the opening ceremony lasted 15 minutes. Before the summit began, the Prince and Johnson had met briefly, with the Prime Minister nodding deferentially and smiling as he shook hands with Charles.

In his address at the opening ceremony, Charles said: ‘The Commonwealth contains within it countries which have had constitutional relations with my family, some which continue to do so and increasingly those which do not. don’t have any.

“I want to make it clear, as I have said before, that the constitutional arrangement of each member, whether as a republic or a monarchy, is solely for the decision of each member country. The benefit of a long life brings me the experience that such arrangements can change, calmly and without hard feelings.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to the Caribbean in March seemed to raise the issue of other kingdoms – nations where the Queen is head of state – breaking away from the British monarchy.

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Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who visited Rwanda for Chogm, suggested to the couple that his country could be the next to become a republic.

Days after Prince William and Kate left Belize, that country’s Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform, Henry Charles Usher, reportedly told Belize’s parliament: “Perhaps it’s time for Belize to move on the next step by truly owning our independence. But this is a matter for the people of Belize to decide.

Ahead of the opening ceremony in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, Charles, who was joined by the Duchess of Cornwall, was due to meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame, Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland , and Johnson and his wife Carrie.

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