Johannesburg, Aug 10 (PTI) Attempts to bully countries into taking sides in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is unacceptable, a senior South African Minister has said. South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor on Monday hosted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on a three-nation Africa tour.
Blinken arrived in South Africa on Sunday, in what analysts describe is an attempt to counter the growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Africa last month.
This is Blinken’s second trip to the continent.
Pandor said she was glad that Blinken had confirmed that the US had not asked South Africa to choose sides (between Russia and Ukraine).
But she conceded that her government had experienced pressure from certain countries in Europe to align with their policy on Ukraine.
“But in terms of our interaction with some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere, there has been a sense of a patronising bullying of ‘you choose this or else’,” she said.
She also criticised a US bill, which she says could penalise African countries for not towing the line on the Ukraine conflict, known as the “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act.” “The recent legislation passed in the US House of Representatives we found (to be) a most unfortunate Bill. When we speak about freedom, it’s freedom for everybody. You can’t say because Africa is doing this, you will then be punished by the US. We hope the other House will not agree to such offensive legislation,” Pandor said.
The minister said it was important for all to respect different opinions held by different nations.
“We are after all, sovereign nations that are recognised as equal in terms of the UN Charter. We may differ in terms of economic power and economic ability to influence developments in different parts of the world, but what will make the world work is if we respect each other.” “One thing I definitely dislike is being told: ‘You choose this or else!”, Pandor reaffirmed.
Relations between South Africa and the US have been strained after South Africa remained neutral over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The minister said Russia was a “very negligible” economic partner for South Africa.
“Our trade with Russia is less than four billion dollars annually, compared to the USD 20 billion with the US. So, this fear that we exist under some putsch is a totally an unfounded belief of the relationship that we have with either country,” Pandor asserted.
“We have been quite clear in saying that we advocate for peace because we knew what would happen. We knew that there would be destruction, death and desolation; and that is what we are all seeing. Let us make every effort to get peace,” Pandor said.
Blinken said that what happens in South Africa really does shape the world.
“We believe that together we can deliver more progress for the people of our two countries and many others across a whole range of issues that matters most to their lives and their futures,” he explained.
Blinken cited health, climate, infrastructure and trade as the four main areas that the two countries would concentrate on.
“We shared the concrete steps that we are going to take to deepen our cooperation. Our countries are poised together to drive progress in the region and around the world,” he said.
Commenting on the US relations with the continent of Africa, Blinken said what the US wanted most was “a true partnership between the US and Africa.” “We don’t want an imbalanced or transactional relationship,” he said. Blinken said there was a narrative that Africa as a whole is the latest playing field between great powers.
“That is fundamentally not how we see it. The truth is, South Africa is a powerful, dynamic country helping write the future of the region and the world,” he added. PTI FH VM VM
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