Secretary of State John Kerry praised Angola for bringing stability to sub-Saharan Africa as he promised to build a stronger relationship with the country.
“I am very grateful, as is President Obama, for the significant leadership of President Dos Santos and the foreign minister on the efforts of the International Conference of Great Lakes Region,” Kerry said in a statement today. He made the comments following a meeting with Angolan Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti in the capital, Luanda.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos became rotating chairman of the 12-nation ICGLR in January for a two-year term.
Chikoti said the two discussed bilateral relations, political stability, petroleum, and a $600 million credit extended to Angola by the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. to purchase Chicago-based Boeing Co.’s planes.
Kerry said that his trip to Angola was intended to repair relations strained because of canceled meetings and historic U.S. support for former rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who fought government forces in a 27-year civil war.
“I came here specifically because we have a desire to make sure we build on” the dialogue with Chikoti and Dos Santos, he told reporters in Luanda.
The bulk of Kerry’s comments focused on economic relations, although he expressed U.S. concern for the restrictions on freedoms in the country.
“The people of Angola must receive the benefit” of increased U.S.-Angolan ties, Kerry said. “We also hope that more Angolans will be able to bring their talents to the use of their country through greater engagement with their government and in a more open and engaged civil society.”
Kerry said the U.S. and Angola would begin an “energy dialogue, discuss the important of diversifying Angola’s economy, and increasing economic cooperation in the areas of energy, technology, infrastructure and agriculture.
The U.S. Commerce Department plans to open a commercial service office in Angola soon, he said.
The Angolan government thanked the U.S. for supporting initiatives in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, Chikoti said. The foreign minister said American and Angolan officials plan to talk more frequently, and meet at least once a year at ministerial level and more often at lower levels.
ICGLR’s other members include Uganda, Burundi, Congo Republic, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.