The US wants a true partnership with Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday in South Africa, the first stop on his three-nation Africa tour seen as an attempt to counter Russia’s efforts for greater influence on the continent.
Blinken arrived in South Africa on Sunday, just a few weeks after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concluded a four-nation trip to bolster support from African countries.
Blinken, who will also visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, said the purpose of US “engagement is our relationship with Africa.”
“We don’t force countries to choose, we offer choices that are affirmative,” Blinken said at a joint news briefing with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor in Pretoria.
South Africa, the US’ largest trade partner in Africa, has remained neutral in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, refusing to join Washington and other Western countries in condemning Moscow.
Without naming any, Blinken said some African countries were “being forced to sign on to Russia because there is absence of an alternative.”
Russian private security group Wagner is engaged in operations in several African countries grappling with conflict, while Moscow is also a key weapons supplier for many nations on the continent.
Blinken said the US attaches great importance to its relations with South Africa.
South Africa, being a member of the G20, has a global voice and its actions have global implications, he said.
South Africa’s work on global climate change and efforts for regional security and on other issues are also significant, he added.
US, South Africa welcome Gaza truce
Both Blinken and Pandor hailed the cease-fire implemented after days of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip left at least 44 Palestinians dead and over 360 others injured.
“The US welcomes the cease-fire to restore calm in Gaza and Israel. We are grateful to those who mediated this agreement,” the top US diplomat said.
“We will continue to promote calm and remain committed to Israel’s security,” he added.
The South African foreign minister also hailed the truce, but expressed concern over the loss of Palestinian lives and property.
“We call on the world to ensure peace,” Pandor said, reiterating that South Africa wants a two-state solution that ensures Palestinians and Israelis can live together in peace.