Delegates from Angola, Cuba and South Africa reached a provisional agreement Tuesday on a U.S.-mediated peace settlement that would end the 13-year-old Cuban troop presence in Angola and grant independence to neighboring Namibia.
Delegations from the three countries said in a joint statement that their governments will now consider approval of the accord, with a “final round of negotiations” to be held in the Congolese capital of Brazzaville at a date to be announced.
U.N. and U.S. officials involved in the peace process said that approval by the three governments was very likely because negotiators had been in constant contact with their capitals through five days of talks that led to the provisional agreement.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman called the accord “clearly . . . an important development.” But he refused to disclose details in line with Washington’s desire to maintain its low profile as a mediator.
A peace settlement centers on withdrawal of the more than 50,000 Cuban troops in Angola and parallel self-determination and independence for Namibia (South-West Africa), a mineral-rich nation sandwiched between South Africa and Angola and ruled since 1915 by South Africa.
No Provision on War
The projected final settlement, however, does not provide for an end to the civil war in Angola, where the Cuban forces have been supporting the Communist government against rebels of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
Under the settlement, U.N. peacekeeping forces and officials would move into Namibia to organize free elections after South African control ends.
The joint statement said that delegations discussed dates for a redeployment of Cuban forces to northern Angola and a staged, total withdrawal of the Cubans.
That will be carried out “on the basis of an agreement between the governments of the Republic of Cuba and the People’s Republic of Angola,” the statement said.
The rate of withdrawal and timetable have been the issues that had blocked agreement during previous meetings mediated by Chester A. Crocker, assistant U.S. secretary of state for African affairs.
Process May Start Feb. 1
U.N. officials involved in making the preparations said the tentative date to begin the process is Feb. 1.
South African delegation leader Neil van Heerden said a final settlement could be signed at the Brazzaville meeting if governmental approval is given to the provisional Geneva pact.
“We are pleased with the document,” Van Heerden said.
“We now have an agreed document which will go to capitals,” he said after a final 40-minute plenary session among all delegates, which was chaired by Crocker and which ended with champagne toasts.
Angola gained independence from Portugal in early 1975. The nation’s first government was replaced by a Marxist movement, which was challenged by UNITA and other non-Communist rebels.
South African troops moved into southern Angola in the fall of 1975, fighting alongside the rebels. The Marxist government then asked for large detachments of Cuban combat troops, which began arriving by December, 1975.