Last Updated: December 01, 2023, 01:30 IST
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President Joe Biden is hosting Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço in the Oval Office on Thursday as he seeks to reaffirm his commitment to Africa even as two wars consume much of his administration’s foreign policy focus.
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is hosting Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço in the Oval Office on Thursday as he seeks to reaffirm his commitment to Africa even as two wars consume much of his administration’s foreign policy focus.
The White House meeting follows Angola’s move to position itself as a strategic partner to the United States and as it has shifted away from Russian and Chinese influence under Lourenço’s tenure. The visit comes as Biden appears set to break his commitment to African leaders to visit the continent this year — though senior U.S. officials have made key trips to Africa throughout 2023.
”They’re a strategic partner and a growing global voice on issues of peace and security,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday, adding that the two leaders would discuss economic and security cooperation as well as regional and global issues.
Lobbyists for Lourenço had petitioned Biden administration officials to set up the meeting between the two leaders for months, warning that the absence of such a high-profile engagement could jeopardize Angola’s commitment to working with the U.S.
“While others in southern Africa are strengthening ties to China, President Lourenço is shedding Angola’s historic relationships with China (and Russia) in favor of a new and strategic partnership with the United States. This is a fundamental shift in Angolan foreign policy,” lobbyist Robert Kapla wrote in April to Biden confidant Amos Hochstein, according to lobbyist disclosure records.
“We are informed that if President Lourenço is unable to meet with President Biden this year, there is real risk that the positive momentum both sides have generated since 2017 will begin to lose traction,” Kapla wrote a week earlier to Ambassador Molly Phee, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
The visit comes months after Biden and allies among the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations unveiled a Trans-African Corridor connecting the Angolan port of Lobito with landlocked areas of the African continent: the Kananga province in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the copper mining regions of Zambia. It’s part of a global infrastructure program championed by Biden that is meant as a counterweight to China’s Belt and Road initiative.
Much of Biden’s recent foreign policy focus has been on Russia’s war in Ukraine and the fighting between Israel and Hamas. Declaring that U.S. leadership “holds the world together,” the Democratic president told Americans in an Oval Office address in October that the U.S. must deepen its support of Ukraine and Israel in the middle of two vastly different, unpredictable and bloody wars.
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