In South Africa speech, Blinken details US policy for Africa

Mogomotsi Magome
Associated Press

Johannesburg – South Africa’s neutral stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine was discussed in a meeting Monday between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Africa’s Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor.

South Africa did not appear to shift in its refusal to criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Instead, Pandor criticized the U.S. and other Western powers for focusing on the Ukraine conflict to the detriment of other international issues.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives a speech on the U.S. Africa Strategy at the University of Pretoria's Future Africa Campus in Pretoria, South Africa, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

“We should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine, as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine,” she said in a press briefing following the meeting with Blinken.

Before the closed-door meeting with Pandor, Blinken had said that the United States’ good relations with South Africa would allow them to be frank in discussing their differences.

Blinken is in South Africa as part of a three-nation tour of Africa including Congo and Rwanda in what is seen as a contest between Western nations and Russia to win support from African countries over the war in Ukraine.

Blinken’s tour follows similar trips to African countries by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron.

South Africa is among many African countries that have taken a neutral stance on the Ukraine war and avoided public criticism of Russia.

Following his discussions with Pandor, Blinken will describe the Biden administration’s policies in sub-Saharan Africa in a speech at the University of Pretoria. He is expected to detail U.S. strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa as President Joe Biden looks for ways to blunt the increasing influence of Russia and China on the continent.

The U.S. strategy, which was outlined by senior administration officials, is focused on supporting open and transparent societies, democratic governance, economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and efforts to mitigate climate change and expand clean energy.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity before the formal announcement of the Africa policy in Blinken’s speech. It’s a broad declaration of U.S. intentions toward a region that the United States is often faulted for overlooking in recent decades, opening space for Russian and Chinese interests to make significant inroads.

Many African countries have declined to follow the U.S. lead in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some were among more than a dozen African governments that have signed security deals with the Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian mercenary group that the U.S. and other countries say is backed by the Kremlin.

Sub-Saharan nations also have been major recipients of Chinese investment through its “Belt and Road Initiative,” which supports infrastructure developments.

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AP journalists Chris Megerian and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington, D.C. contributed.