‘Difficult’ Discussion on Ukraine Predicted at Biden-Ramaphosa Meeting

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday, with trade, energy and security on the agenda. What is not officially on the agenda, but will likely be discussed, analysts say, are the differences between the two democracies over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ramaphosa’s first visit to the White House comes as the Biden administration tries to reconnect with Africa following US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to the continent, during which he launched Washington’s new African strategy.

During the August trip, Blinken pointed out that the United States sees Africa as an equal partner.

However, during their meeting in Pretoria, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor accused Western nations of “molesting” Africa by trying to persuade countries to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

Bob Wekesa, director of the African Center for the Study of the United States at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, said the differences between the two countries were evident in the talks between the two senior diplomats.

“At that meeting, it was very clear that South Africa and the United States were on different paths and trajectories when it came to many issues,” he said.

Wekesa said Ukraine would likely return when Biden and Ramaphosa meet on Friday and predicted that the two leaders would have a “difficult” discussion on the issue.

“The United States, having taken a very clear stance on support for Ukraine, in order to somehow expel Russian forces from Ukraine, will press South Africa hard enough to change. [its] okay, “he said.

South Africa abstained in a United Nations vote earlier this year to condemn the Russian invasion. Then Biden called Ramaphosa. A statement from the White House following the appeal stated that Biden had “stressed the need for a clear and unified international response to Russian aggression in Ukraine”.

Steven Gruzd, head of the African Governance and Diplomacy Program at the South African Institute for International Affairs, said Ramaphosa and Biden will also discuss other issues, but added that the topic of Ukraine cannot be avoided. .

“On the agenda will be trade and investment, issues such as climate change and food security, energy, peace and security in Africa and, of course, what is not officially on the table. The agenda, but which will certainly be discussed, is the war in Ukraine and the divergent positions of South Africa and the United States on this particular conflict, “she said.

Gruzd said he believed the Combating Malicious Activities of Russia in Africa Act, which passed the US House of Representatives and is currently under consideration by the Senate, would also be raised in the conversation. of the two leaders.

African countries see the act, which would sanction nations trading with Russia, as an attempt to punish them for not voting with the United States on Ukraine.

In December, Biden is expected to host the US-Africa leaders’ summit in Washington.

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