Johannesburg — A handful of senior U.S. lawmakers from each events have despatched a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Nationwide Safety Advisor Jacob Sullivan and prime U.S. commerce envoy Katherine Tai calling for South Africa to be punished for its perceived assist of Russia amid the continuing battle in Ukraine.
The June 9 letter, obtained by CBS Information and first reported by The New York Instances, argues that despite its acknowledged impartial stance on the Ukraine battle, the South African authorities has strengthened relations with Moscow since President Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, making it vital, the lawmakers argue, for the U.S. to take motion.
The letter (under) is the primary name for open retaliation for what many in Washington see as South Africa transferring towards alignment with Russia in a attainable risk to U.S. nationwide pursuits. Particularly, the lawmakers name for an upcoming summit below the auspices of the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to be relocated from South Africa to a different nation.
The letter, signed by Sen. Chris Coons (D) and Republican Sen. Jim Risch, each members of the Senate International Relations Committee, and endorsed by members from each events on the Home International Affairs Committee, says they’re “critically involved that internet hosting the 2023 AGOA Discussion board in South Africa would function an endorsement” of the nation’s “assist for Russia and attainable violation of U.S. Sanction legal guidelines.”
The lawmakers say latest actions by South Africa name into query the nation’s eligibility to profit from the AGOA, which grants duty-free entry to the U.S. market to items from sure sub-Sharan African nations, together with South Africa. There’s a requirement in AGOA that benefiting international locations mustn’t interact in actions that undermine U.S. nationwide safety or overseas coverage goals.
South Africa, the continent’s largest single financial system, exported about $3 billion price of products via AGOA to the US in 2022.
South Africa’s relationship with the U.S. has been strained for the reason that nation declared a “non-aligned stance” on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It deteriorated additional in Might when U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety, chatting with native media, accused South Africa of secretly loading arms onto a sanctioned Russian ship in Simon’s City harbor in December 2022, earlier than the ship returned to Russia with its contents.
Brigety known as it “basically unacceptable.”
His feedback got here after stress flared in February when South Africa hosted joint naval battle video games off its coast with Russian and Chinese language warships.
The lawmakers level to each incidents of their letter, saying the “actions by South Africa name into query its eligibility for commerce advantages below AGOA because of the statutory requirement that beneficiary international locations don’t interact in actions that undermine United States nationwide safety or overseas coverage pursuits.”
Final 12 months, the U.S. eliminated Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from AGOA over alleged human rights abuses.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced not too long ago that an African leaders’ Peace Mission would journey to each Ukraine and Russia in June, and he is anticipated to guide the delegation as quickly as this week.
Each Presidents Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine have stated they’ll meet the Africa leaders.
“Principal to our discussions are efforts to discover a peaceable decision to the devastating battle in Ukraine,” Ramaphosa stated when he introduced the journey, on which he’ll be part of the leaders of 5 different African nations.
South Africa and Russia have a traditionally sturdy relationship, solid throughout the years of the apartheid regime. Moscow supported the now-ruling African Nationwide Congress when it was nonetheless a liberation get together preventing to finish the racist regime.
CBS Information producer John Nolen in Washington contributed to this report.