, WASHINGTON, Apr 24 – Senior African Union officials met US National Security Advisor General Jim Jones at the White House to discuss increased cooperation between the United States and their organization.
The AU delegation, led by chairperson Jean Ping, was on the last day of a three-day visit for the first high-level bilateral talks between the African Union and Washington on issues including fighting hunger, climate change, and boosting peacekeeping operations.
Jones and Ping "both greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet and discuss shared challenges and opportunities in the areas of peace and security and economic development," the White House said in a statement on Friday.
The two "agreed on the importance of sustained engagement to strengthen cooperation on bilateral, regional, and global issues."
Ping told reporters after the meeting that the AU\’s 53 member states face issues "which are global problems, which can be solved only globally.
"If you want to talk about climate change or trade, no single (African) country… could be heard. Its voice is too small to be heard individually," Ping said.
"When we speak collectively, then we represent a power."
The US ambassador to the AU, Michael Battle, said that Washington is "seeking to have a relationship with the African Union as a continental body, which does not replace the bilateral relationships we have with individual African nations."
In dealing with transnational issues like drug trafficking, climate control, and food security, "the only legitimately elected voice to speak for the entire continent is the African Union Commission."
A joint statement issued Thursday said the two sides hoped to hold the talks on an annual basis, rotating between Washington and the African Union\’s headquarters of Addis Ababa.
Since it was founded in 2002, the African Union has gradually been assuming a greater role in the continent\’s security including through peacekeeping in Somalia and Sudan\’s Darfur region.
The bloc also led an invasion in 2008 to stop a rebellion on Anjouan island of the Comoros.
The AU delegation also met with senior officials in the State Department, the US Agency for International Development, the Department of Justice and others.