ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- U.S.Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this week for an African Union summit, where he led a ten person delegation and spoke about America's commitment to Africa.
Speaking at a press conference at the 22nd AU Summit on Thursday, Burns commented on President Barack Obama's efforts to strengthen U.S.-AU ties and to "realize the full potential of that partnership." That partnership, Burns went onto describe, encompasses a range of shared interests, chief among them addressing hunger -- as well as conflict.
The AU proclaimed 2014 the "Year of Agriculture and Food Security." Burns noted that "on no issue are our efforts more aligned," and cited collaborative efforts to make Africa hunger-free by 2025 and President Obama's Feed the Future initiative.
"But as all of you know, in too many parts of this continent, violence and conflict hold at risk the region's economic progress." Burns then relayed America's commitment to supporting the AU's regional peace and security efforts.
When reporters asked Burns about America's position regarding tense and fragile mediation efforts in South Sudan, Burns responded that the U.S. will continue "to provide strong support to the IGAD mediation effort" and that the U.S. delegation at the Summit planned to discuss "further support efforts" with the IGAD mediation team later Thursday.
Reporters also asked the deputy secretary what it will take to "quell the violence" in the Central African Republic. Admitting "we have no illusion about the challenges that remain or the depth of human suffering there," he discussed American contributions to date. "The United States is proud to have contributed... up to a 100 million dollars in training, equipment and airlift support for AU forces, 45 million dollars in humanitarian assistance, and 7.5 million dollars to date in support for the reconciliation efforts."
Burns was accompanied by a senior U.S. delegation that comprised Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Rexon Ryu, U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the DRC Russell D. Feingold, USAID Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein, USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Earl Gast and Acting Assistant to the Administrator for Food Security Tjada McKenna, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa Florizelle Liser, and Special Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for African Affairs Grant Harris.