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13 May, 2023 04:36

US envoy urged to clarify ‘apology’ to South Africa

Ambassador Reuben Brigety is under fire for claiming that Pretoria delivered arms to Moscow
US envoy urged to clarify ‘apology’ to South Africa

South Africa’s head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, has asked for clarification after comments by US Ambassador Reuben Brigety following his claims that Pretoria had shipped weapons to Russia.

Brigety was summoned to South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on Friday for a talk with Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor. During the dressing-down, the US official allegedly “admitted that he crossed the line and apologized unreservedly,” according to Monyela, who was also present for the discussion.

The envoy wrote after the meeting that he was happy to “correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks” and that he had “re-affirmed the strong partnership between our two countries.” The ambassador, however, did not mention any apology in his tweet, triggering a barrage of questions.

“You may want to clarify. We are happy with the apology you offered in the meeting but the comments here suggest that more was expected from you,” Monyela said in response to one of many users wondering what the ambassador’s apology entailed exactly.

Monyela added that Brigety had “committed to making the apology public,” which he apparently tried to do in his tweet, but regretted “his choice of language is the issue.”

Amid the diplomatic fallout, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also had a phone call with Minister Pandor on Friday, in which he “underscored the importance of the US-South Africa strategic partnership and reiterated cooperation on shared priorities, including health, trade, and energy,” according to a brief readout.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, meanwhile, had a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the leaders agreeing to continue building “mutually beneficial ties in different fields,” according to the Kremlin. They also highlighted the importance of close cooperation ahead of the BRICS summit that will be hosted by Ramaphosa in Johannesburg in August.

Unlike many Western countries, Pretoria has refused to impose sanctions on Moscow and supply weapons to Ukraine. Ramaphosa has explained that his country’s neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict means “we can talk to both sides.”

On Thursday, Ramaphosa said that Brigety’s allegations “undermine the spirit of cooperation and partnership” between Pretoria and Washington, as no evidence has been provided indicating any weapons transfers to Russia. The South African government has nevertheless ordered an independent inquiry into the matter.