Lavrov shores up Eritrean support for Russia over Ukraine conflict
NAIROBI, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Thursday on a tour of Africa to shore up support for Russia, focusing on the "dynamics of the war in Ukraine", Eritrea's information minister said.
Lavrov has been on a week-long charm offensive on the continent, starting in South Africa, which is planning joint military drills with Russia and China, and finishing off with a surprise trip to the reclusive Horn of Africa nation of Eritrea.
South Africa is one of Russia's most important allies on a continent divided over the invasion and Western attempts to isolate Moscow because of its military actions.
Eritrea is one of the few African countries that voted against a U.N. resolution condemning Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine although many abstained.
"We are thankful to Eritrean friends for their consistent support of Russian initiatives in the UN," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russian state news agency TASS.
He said Asmara had taken a "principled and balanced position on issues regarding the events in Ukraine and around it", TASS reported, adding that he also invited his Eritrean counterpart, Osman Saleh, to visit Moscow soon.
The talks in Eritrea also explored ways of enhancing ties in energy, mining, information technology, education and health, Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on Twitter late on Thursday.
Both sides will conduct a joint study to establish the logistical and transit opportunities presented by the Red Sea port of Massawa and its airport, TASS said.
"I would like to mention the possibility of using the logistical potential of the Massawa port and the city’s airport. The airport of Massawa looks interesting from the point of view of its transit possibilities," Lavrov said.
Lavrov's visit to Africa coincides with others by senior U.S. officials, who are crisscrossing the continent to shore up ties with U.S. allies there.
Speaking when he met Lavrov's delegation on Thursday, Foreign Minister Osman blamed the crisis in Ukraine on what he described as the United States' "reckless policy of hegemony and containment" over a number of decades.
"The sad fact is that Ukraine is both a pretext and victim of this policy," Osman said during the speech delivered in Massawa.
There was no mention of the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, where Eritrean troops fought alongside their Ethiopian federal counterparts against rebellious Tigrayan forces.
A deal to end the fighting was signed last November but Eritrea was not party to the truce. Eritrean troops have started to leave some parts of Tigray, witnesses said.
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