The second round of four-party talks on Angola and Namibia begins today in Cairo. Angola, South Africa, Cuba, and the United States are trying to agree on a package for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Angola and Namibia.
Cuba has more than 40,000 troops in Angola supporting the Angolan government. South Africa has had up to 5,000 troops in southeastern Angola supporting UNITA antigovernment forces and maintains about 22,000 troops in Namibia. Namibia would receive its independence as part of a troop-withdrawal package.
In the Cairo talks, scheduled to last two days, South Africa will present proposals for troop-withdrawal timetables. Angola and Cuba presented their ideas at the first set of talks held in London in early May.
The US and Soviet Union agreed during the Moscow summit to set Sept. 29 as a target date for an agreed package on Angola. (That date is the 10th anniversary of the United Nations plan for Namibia's independence). US officials hope the Soviets will now be more active in urging Angola and Cuba to negotiate seriously.
The wild card, however, remains South Africa, US officials say. Washington has relatively little leverage over that country. Officials will be carefully assessing the ideas South Africa presents in Cairo as a measure of its seriousness.
Meanwhile, in Washington both sides in the 15-year Angolan civil war are lobbying for support.
For the Angolan government, the minister of state for production and the justice minister are in the US for a week. They have met with Secretary of State George Shultz, national security adviser Colin Powell, a number of congressmen, and prominent politicians, including Jesse Jackson.
The ministers are strongly arguing that US covert aid to their UNITA adversaries should be stopped, and stressing UNITA's long links to South Africa. However, the justice minister for the first time publicly said US aid to UNITA was not on the table in the current four-party talks. He told the New York Times the aid question will have to be ``tackled at another time.''
US officials see this as a sign the Angolan government is interested in progress in the troop-withdrawal talks.
For the opposition, UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi arrived in New York yesterday for a week-long stay that will include meetings with the administration and congressmen.
Savimbi has been fighting the current government of Angola since the country was granted independence from Portugal in 1975. But he has relied heavily on support from South Africa to carry on his fight which has made his cause controversial in Africa and the US.
In each of the last two years the US has provided UNITA with about $15 million of covert military assistance. US officials say that aid is not a bargaining chip in the four-party talks. They do, however, encourage efforts to get the two Angolan parties to work out a negotiated settlement of the civil war.
Aid to UNITA remains controversial. A group of prominent black leaders held a press conference yesterday in Washington opposing US support for Savimbi because of his close ties to South Africa. On the other hand, Savimbi is being hosted at lunch next week by a bipartisan group of senators who have formed a task force to promote reconciliation in Angola and have urged that aid to UNITA not be cut prematurely.