Tuesday, April 27, 2010

U.S., African Union Conclude Historic Meeting

U.S., African Union Conclude Historic Meeting

Date: 2010-04-27
Original Article: http://media-newswire.com/release_1117981.html

Distributed by: Media-Newswire.com

(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington — The United States ambassador to the African Union, Michael Battle, and the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, both proclaimed the first round of U.S.-African Union (AU) High Level Bilateral Meetings “historic,” and a resounding success.

Battle and Ping briefed reporters at the Foreign Press Center in Washington April 23 following two days of talks.

“This is the first time we have ever had this level of discussion,” Battle said, and [we] look forward to moving ahead with a substantive, comprehensive relationship between the African Union as a regional continental body and the United States government.”

Ping told reporters at the briefing that he joined Battle in calling the meeting historic, the first time for such a multilateral exchange. “The meeting was very fruitful for us,” Ping said, and he thanked the Obama administration for hosting the first round of the multilateral talks.

Even though the United States has had bilateral relationships with African countries for a very long time, the U.S.-AU talks marked the first time both sides worked to establish a “solid partnership,” Ping told reporters. “We already have such a partnership with the European Union, the European Commission and member states.

We also have similar partnerships with Japan, China, India, South Korea, Latin America and also with Turkey. So we thought with the leading economy of the world, we should establish a similar partnership.

“We are very satisfied that we have reached our objective in exchanging views on all fields with the American administration: peace and security on the continent, development of the continent, shared values of the continent and other related issues, cultural, social,” Ping said.

Ping said Africa is composed of five regions, with a sixth one just added: The African diaspora in the United States, he said, is “very, very important. So you can imagine how far we intend to deepen our relations with the United States, and this meeting was a very fruitful one.”

Ping said both the United States and the African Union are facing global challenges and that, in part, is driving the need for such a multilateral relationship.

“You have the problem of terrorism … drug trafficking … human trafficking … you have all of these global problems we are confronting. To solve them, no single country, no single continent can solve them by itself. There is a need for cooperation. For global problems, we need global solutions,” he said.

Ambassador Battle said the just-concluded first round of the U.S.–African Union High Level Bilateral Meetings does not replace the ongoing bilateral relationships that the United States has with nearly all African nations.

Like Ping, Battle also stressed the need for such talks to address transnational issues and problems that do not stop at boundaries, such as drug and human trafficking, climate change and food security.

Responding, Ping added, “If you wanted to talk about climate change or trade, no single African country could be heard, its voice would be too small. … When we speak collectively … we represent power.”

In an interview with America.gov before the briefing, Battle called the U.S.-AU relationship “very significant” and said the new High Level Bilateral Meetings provide an opportunity for the United States and the AU to “crystallize what has been a very productive, but also, in many instances, a nonformalized relationship.”

That, he said, is one of the reasons the talks also included high-level discussions at many U.S. government agencies, such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Meetings were also held with members of the African diaspora in Washington, he said.

Battle said the U.S.-AU meetings “address the transnational issues that know no boundaries and know no borders, and that has become more significant.” He added that Ping told him at the end of the first day of talks that the AU’s expectations had already been exceeded.

The U.S. diplomat attributed that to the substantive conversations that took place during the Washington sessions, which he said were open and frank. “There was real give-and-take on the part of the African delegation as well as on the part of the U.S. delegation. I am really pleased. What will make me happy is if we will do the follow-up that we need to do between now and next year.”

A framework for follow-up work and discussions has already been established for the 2011 round of talks, he added.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)

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