AP

Biden calls South Africa a vital voice despite Russia stance

Sep 15, 2022, 9:14 PM | Updated: Sep 16, 2022, 5:59 pm

President Joe Biden shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as they meet in the O...

President Joe Biden shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden praised South Africa as a vital voice on the global stage as he hosted President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday at the White House for talks that touched on the two nations’ differences on Russia’s war in Ukraine and more.

In a brief appearance before the media at the start of their meeting, Biden made no direct mention that Ramaphosa is among African leaders who have maintained a neutral stance in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. South Africa abstained from a United Nations vote condemning Russia’s actions and calling for a mediated settlement.

But the president seemed to offer a subtle recognition that the two countries have their differences.

“We really need to make sure we fully understand one another,” said Biden, who heaped praise on Ramaphosa for his country’s leadership on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of climate change and other issues.

Following the meeting, Ramaphosa told reporters that South Africa’s position on the conflict is “respected” and that both he and Biden agreed they “would like this conflict to come to an end as soon as possible.”

Ahead of the meeting, South Africa’s international relations minister, Naledi Pandor, said finding an endgame to the Ukraine war will be South Africa’s focus when it participates in the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly next week.

“We would want a process of diplomacy to be initiated between the two parties and we believe the U.N. must lead, the U.N secretary-general in particular,” Pandor said.

The White House meeting came on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to South Africa last month, in which he said the Biden administration sees Africa’s 54 nations as “equal partners” in tackling global problems.

But the administration has been disappointed that South Africa and much of the continent have declined to follow the U.S. in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

During the Blinken visit, Pandor accused the U.S. and other Western powers of focusing on the Ukraine conflict to the detriment of crises around the globe.

“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.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has sought to underscore that Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has led to scarcities in grain, cooking oil and fertilizer — resulting in disproportionate impact on Africans. The White House said in a statement following the meeting that the leaders discussed the “negative consequences” the war has had on food security in Africa.

South Africa’s neutral position is largely because of the support the Soviet Union gave during the Cold War era to Ramaphosa’s African National Congress in its fight to end apartheid, South Africa’s regime of repression against the Black majority that ended in 1994. South Africa is seen as a leader of the several African countries that will not side against Russia.

Despite the differences on the war in Ukraine, the Biden administration recognizes the importance of strengthening relations in Africa as China has spent decades entrenching itself in the continent’s natural resources markets. Improving relations with South Africa — one of the continent’s biggest economies — is central to the U.S. effort.

John Stremlau, an international relations expert at the University of the Witwatersrand, said the talks underscore that the U.S. sees South Africa as having the “potential to lead Africa in a constructive way” on trade and other issues.

Earlier on Friday, Ramaphosa met with Vice President Kamala Harris for wide-ranging talks. The vice president’s office said in a statement that Harris and Ramaphosa discussed global health security, space cooperation, climate change, women’s empowerment and other matters, as they met over breakfast at the vice president’s residence.

In a brief exchange with reporters before his meeting with Harris, Ramaphosa said he would like to see the relationship between the two countries strengthened.

South Africa’s ambitious efforts to transition from coal to cleaner energy were also discussed during the leaders’ talks. The U.S., Britain, France and Germany announced a plan last year to provid e $8.5 billion in loans and grants over five years to help South Africa phase out coal.

___

Magome reported from Johannesburg.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

7 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

8 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

9 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

10 days ago

(Pexels photo)...

Associated Press

Baby in Kansas City, Missouri, dies after her mother mistakenly put her in an oven

An infant in Missouri died when her mother mistakenly put her down for a nap in an oven, a prosecutor said Saturday.

11 days ago

Former Arizona Department of Corrections boss Charles Ryan received probation on Feb. 9, 2024. (AP ...

Associated Press

Former Arizona corrections boss sentenced to probation over armed 2022 standoff with police

Former Arizona Corrections Director Charles Ryan was sentenced Friday to probation for his no-contest plea to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a 2022 armed standoff at his Tempe home.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Biden calls South Africa a vital voice despite Russia stance