US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on SA to play a more influential role in African and global issues.
“We are looking for ways to enhance and deepen our partnership. SA has so much to offer to the rest of the world,” Clinton said yesterday as she met International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
While the two countries almost always had similar objectives on international situations, they often differed on the path to take to achieve desired results, she said.
“As crises and opportunities arise, there are tough issues we have to tackle together, from nuclear proliferation to climate change, security crises, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Syria. We do not always see eye to eye on these issues. I don’t know if people always do and certainly not two nations. Sometimes we will disagree as friends do.”
A senior US State Department official said Clinton – on the sixth leg of a marathon tour of the continent – wanted to “encourage SA to play a stronger and more influential role” in global affairs.
The two countries have appeared to be at odds over the approach to conflicts in Syria and Libya and sanctions on Iran.
SA, which is serving a stint as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, abstained from a heated vote last month on a resolution threatening Syria with sanctions. SA said it wanted a more balanced approach and measures to prod the rebels to comply with the proposed peace plan.
The preference by SA for pursuing negotiations for a longer period in trying to resolve conflicts could be attributed to its historical background, the diplomat said. It “gets very nervous when words like ‘regime change’ are mentioned”.
Outside the differences in tactics, “fundamentally the US and SA share the same values”, said the State Department official.
Another senior US diplomat said that “strategic dialogue with the minister is the linchpin” of the trip.
Nkoana-Mashabane said SA “regards the US as an important player in the context of north-south relations”.
“I believe as partners on the continent we can do more about stability and the ways we are going to foster security, economic growth and development.”
Nkoana-Mashabane thanked Clinton for her “personal commitment to elevate this relationship”.
Clinton also met the newly elected chairwoman of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, for talks.
Dlamini Zuma recently said she would be opposed to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir being arrested because his involvement in peace talks was needed. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on genocide charges.
A key aim of Clinton’s trip is to promote trade between the US and SA, one of the five members of the Brics group of world emerging economies.
“Part of our strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa is to build partnerships that add value rather than extract it,” Clinton said. “So we’re ramping up our efforts to spur economic growth through increased trade and investment across the region.
“Economic growth will help the US build partnerships to benefit countries throughout Africa, and it will help SA strengthen its role as a global and regional leader.”
Washington has been actively involved in the fight against Aids in Africa through its Pepfar scheme, launched by the US administration under George W Bush.
Last year, 1.3 million South Africans received antiretroviral treatment, in what was the largest HIV treatment programme in the world. “The US has invested billions of dollars in fighting this terrible disease in SA. I think it is fair to say we have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Clinton said.