Biden Set to Talk Ukraine, Russia With S.Africa’s Ramaphosa


WASHINGTON/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will discuss efforts to end the war in Ukraine with South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, who has avoided condemning Russia, when the two leaders meet at the White House on Friday, according to a U.S. official.

“The goal is to have a conversation about the conflict in Ukraine: how we got there, and how we get out of it, and in hearing from President Ramaphosa about his thoughts on the best way forward, sharing ours on how to manage the conflict and to reach a conclusion,” said the senior Biden administration official.

Biden, who has led an international coalition to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the near-seven month war in Ukraine, wants South Africa’s help in efforts that include forcing Moscow to sell its oil at below-market rates.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss trade, climate and energy as Biden ramps up engagements with African countries and casts a wary eye on investments and diplomacy by rivals Russia and China on the continent.

Political Cartoons on World Leaders

Ramaphosa has resisted calls to directly condemn Russia for the war, instead opposing the use of force generically. In March, he blamed NATO’s eastward expansion for regional instability and said the conflict should be solved through United Nations-mediated negotiations rather than Western-led sanctions that hurt “bystander countries.”

South Africa was one of 17 African countries to abstain from the U.N. vote condemning Russia’s assault.

Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) party, which has governed South Africa since white minority rule ended in 1994, had strong ties to the former Soviet Union, which trained and supported anti-apartheid activists during the Cold War.

However, South Africa still enjoys a high level of diplomatic clout among Russia’s rivals in the West relative to its economic size since its peaceful transition to democracy.

Last month, during his visit to South Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States would not dictate Africa’s choices, following an earlier pledge to “do things differently,” after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s insulting remarks about African countries.

Africans often resent being a theater for competition between China, Russia and the Western order. The Ukraine crisis has exacerbated the longstanding rivalry over Africa’s natural resources, trade and security ties.

The war and global inflation have put pressure on South Africa, where half of the population lived below the poverty line even before the crisis limited grain and fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine.

Declining natural gas and oil exports from those warring countries has also boosted South African coal, a top domestic resource, and set back decarbonization goals for one of the world’s most carbon-intensive economies.

Biden is due to host more leaders from the continent in December, when ANC members will also chose whether to keep Ramaphosa as their party leader.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Johannesburg; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.



Source link

Leave a Comment