September 28, 2023

In Pretoria, U.S. discusses Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with possible mediator, South Africa

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman meets with South Africa Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor in Pretora, South Africa, on May 4, 2022. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy South Africa/
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman meets with South Africa Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor in Pretora, South Africa, on May 4, 2022. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy South Africa/

Officials from the United States met with their South African counterparts in Pretoria, South Africa, on Wednesday, and discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said in March that his country had been approached to play the role of mediator in the devastating war that has left thousands of people dead and millions forcibly displaced.

Officially, American officials would only acknowledge in a statement that they discussed ‘global peace and security’ but an official told Today News Africa that they discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that a possible mediation role by South Africa came up.

On April 9, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke with President Ramaphosa and both leaders discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Their phone call came just weeks after Mr. Ramaphosa asserted that NATO provoked Russia into invading Ukraine by expanding eastward despite warnings from amongst its own members and officials.

Barely two weeks after Biden’s call, United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with South African National Security Advisor Sydney Mufamadi on April 26 and both leaders discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as other issues, including recent deadly floods in Kwa Zulu Natal.

In a readout from their conversation, the White House said back then that Sullivan “emphasized the United States’ continued readiness to work closely with South Africa to address the crisis in Ukraine; enhance our partnership on trade and investment, health systems and health security, and climate change; and support counterterrorism and regional security efforts.”

In March, South Africa was also one of 35 countries that abstained from voting on the United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Belarus joined Russia in voting against the resolution. However, most other countries in the world voted for the resolution condemning the devastating invasion.

During a speech in parliament, the South African leader whose country was in the receiving end of racism from the West for decades, asserted that the war in Ukraine could have been avoided.

“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” Mr. Ramaphosa said.

The South African leader clarified that he did not want to take sides to undermine his country’s role as a possible mediator. He said he had been approached to mediate in the Ukraine-Russia war without specifying who approached him.

On Wednesday, United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is on a three-nation African tour along with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mary Catherine Phee and National Security Council Senior Director for Africa Dana Banks, met South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor and Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Alvin Botes in Pretoria.

The Department of State described their meetings as “warm and productive” and that “Deputy Secretary Sherman and Minister Pandor discussed the importance of the U.S.-South Africa partnership and shared priorities including health, climate, and regional and global peace and security.”

“Deputy Secretary Sherman and Deputy Minister Botes, who was joined by Economic Advisor to President Ramaphosa Trudi Makhaya, discussed the growing partnership on mutual areas of interest, including trade, investment, and infrastructure. Deputy Secretary Sherman also expressed condolences on the loss of life and destruction as a result of the weather disaster in KwaZulu-Natal in April,” the statement added.

The officials are traveling to South Africa, Angola, Gabon, and France from May 2 to 7 and are expected to meet with top officials in those countries, including President João Lourenço of Angola and President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon.

“In South Africa, Deputy Secretary Sherman will travel to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria from May 2 to 4 and meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Alvin Botes and other senior government officials to discuss furthering U.S.-South African cooperation on a range of issues, including global and regional peace and security, trade and investment, sustainable infrastructure, health security, and the climate crisis,” the U.S. State Department told journalists on Friday. “She will meet with business leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss strengthening the important trade and investment relationship between the U.S. and South Africa. The Deputy Secretary will also present the International Women of Courage Award during a discussion with women leaders promoting human rights for marginalized communities.”

The media note added that Deputy Secretary Sherman will then travel to Luanda, Angola from May 4 to 5 to meet with President João Lourenço, Foreign Minister Tete Antonio, and other senior Angolan officials “to discuss our shared interests, including regional security and defense cooperation, economic prosperity, good governance, support for Angola’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, and cooperation on shared maritime law enforcement as well as economic, and climate-related challenges in the Atlantic Basin.”

She will also hold discussions with business leaders, and Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni who are working to promote women’s entrepreneurship and youth engagement.

From May 5 to 6, the Deputy Secretary will travel to Libreville, Gabon, where she will meet with President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Foreign Minister Michael Moussa-Adamo, and Minister of Defense Félicité Ongouori Ngoubili “to engage on our shared priorities including promoting environmental protection, addressing the climate crisis, and furthering security cooperation.”

The Deputy Secretary will also visit Raponda Walker Arboretum to learn about Gabon’s work in forest conservation leadership to combat the climate crisis.

The State Department added that on May 7, the Deputy Secretary will meet in Paris, France, with French MFA Secretary General Francois Delattre, German MFA State Secretary Andreas Michaelis, Italian MFA Secretary General Ettore Sequi, and UK Minister of State for Europe and North America James Cleverly “to discuss our ongoing, close coordination to respond to Putin’s brutal, unprovoked war against Ukraine.”

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