US trip: Ramaphosa to reaffirm SA’s non-aligned stance on Russia-Ukraine war

  • Chief among the things on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s agenda when he meets his American counterpart on Friday will be reaffirming SA’s non-aligned stance on the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • The president will also seek to deepen trade ties while exploring other areas of possible cooperation.
  • South Africa will also participate in the 77th edition of the United Nations General Assembly.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to reaffirm South Africa’s non-aligned stance on the Russia-Ukraine war when he embarks on an official visit to the United States this week, while he seeks to deepen trade ties and cooperation.

At a media briefing on Monday morning, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor suggested that Ramaphosa would not buckle or shift from SA’s stance that a peaceful and dialogue-driven resolution to the war must be sought.

Ramaphosa would “most definitely” emphasise the need for enhanced multilateralism and dialogue as a means through which challenges facing humanity can be addressed, she said.

“The visit to Washington comes after an invitation was extended by President Joe Biden which was given to me by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Pretoria during his recent visit in August.

“I was pleased to give the invitation to President Ramaphosa, who accepted the invite and will hold talks at the White House with President Biden on 16 September,” Pandor said:

She added:

The two leaders, it is hoped, will discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. They will also focus on trade and investment, climate change, food security matters, energy access, and the matter of peace and stability in Africa and the globe as well.

Ramaphosa is expected to meet Biden at the White House on Friday.

Pandor also said SA had chosen a much-criticised stance, but added that it did not mean the country was folding its hands and not making any attempts to ensure the two countries find common ground.

The minister confirmed during the briefing that she would engage with her Russian counterpart on Monday afternoon, particularly on the provision of humanitarian corridors so that vessels carrying food can leave Ukraine.

“I will be speaking to my counterpart in Russia later today. During our last conversation, we had indicated that we would want a process of diplomacy to be initiated between the two parties, and we believed that the UN should mediate. We also spoke about the need for the ability of the transportation of grain to be established,” she said.

READ | SA won’t be bullied, Pandor tells Blinken on US law seeking to punish states backing Russia

Ramaphosa and six of his ministers are also expected to participate in the high-level segment of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Pandor said the UNGA presented SA “with a strategic opportunity” for the promotion of the country’s national and foreign policy objectives as set out in the national development plan.

She emphasised that the general assembly would focus on developmental matters, specifically around health, education and food security, given the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on these areas over the past few years.

Pandor added that Ramaphosa and his delegates would take the opportunity to also meet congressional leaders and veterans of the civil rights movement who were instrumental in lobbying the American public against apartheid and many of whom remain loyal to anti-racialism cause.

As part of side meetings to be hosted by SA during the UNGA, Pandor said that along with her counterpart from Norway, she would lobby other female ministers of foreign affairs to call for the speedy investigation of the killing of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

This comes after the Israel Defence Forces admitted for the first time last week that there was a “high possibility” Akleh had been killed by Israeli fire while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin in May.

Pandor said the manner in which investigations into Akleh’s death were conducted were concerning and added that there was a need for pressure to be exerted to ensure justice.