PRETORIA - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called on South Africa, the continent‘s leading democracy, to play a more influential role in African and global issues.
"We are looking for ways to enhance and deepen our partnership. South Africa has so much to offer to the rest of the world,“ Clinton said as she met with foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. While the two countries almost always have similar objectives on international situations, they often differ 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 DRC 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,“ she said. A senior State Department official said Clinton - on the sixth leg of a marathon tour of the continent - wants to „encourage South Africa to play a stronger and more influential role“ in global affairs.
The two countries have appeared at odds on the approach to such conficts as in Syria, Libya and sanctions on Iran. South Africa, currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, last month abstained from a heated vote on sanctions against Syria backed by European nations and the United States. South Africa said it wanted a more balanced approach and measures to prod the rebels to comply with the proposed peace plan. South Africa‘s preference for longer negotiations to approach conflicts can be attributed to its historical background, the diplomat said.
And the country „gets very nervous when words like regime change get mentioned. We are not nervous about those words,“ said the diplomat. Outside the differences in tactics, „fundamentally the US and South Africa share the same values,“ said the State Department official. „Strategic dialogue with the minister is the lynchpin“ of the trip, a senior US diplomat said. Nkoana-Mashabane said the southern African country „regards USA 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.“
She thanked Clinton for her „personal commitment to elevate this relationship.“ Clinton is later set to hold talks with the newly-elected chairwoman of the African Union Commission, South Africa‘s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Dlamini-Zuma recently said she was opposed to the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges, because his involvement in peace talks was needed. A key part of Clinton‘s trip is to promote trade between the United States and South Africa, one of the five members of the BRICS group of world emerging economies, together with Brazil, Russia, India and China.
"Part of our strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa is to build partnerships that add value rather than extract it. So we‘re ramping up our efforts to spur economic growth through increased trade and investment across the region,“ she said. „Economic growth will help the United States build partnerships to benefit countries throughout Africa, and it will help South Africa strengthen its role as a global and regional leader.“ Washington has been actively involved in the fight against AIDS in Africa under its PEPFAR scheme, launched by the previous US administration of George W. Bush.
In 2011, 1.3 million South Africans were receiving anti-retroviral treatment, in the world‘s largest AIDS treatment programme. „The USA has invested billions of dollars in the fight of this terrible disease in South Africa. I think it is fair to say that we have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,“ Clinton said.