U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning a trip to Africa in the first three months of 2018, a senior aide said, amid speculation how long Tillerson might stay in the job.
Earlier on Wednesday, Tillerson said there was no truth to reports that President Donald Trump intended to fire him and replace him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
Directly addressing the issue at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Tillerson dismissed the reports that overshadowed his week-long trip to Europe which highlighted the yearning of allies for stability in U.S. foreign policy.
“Secretary Tillerson is planning a trip to Africa in the first quarter of 2018,” senior adviser R.C. Hammond told reporters at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base.
Hammond spoke during a stopover en route to Vienna where Tillerson is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday to discuss issues such as North Korea.
Tillerson has said there can be no normal U.S. relations with Russia until Moscow ends its support for separatists in Ukraine and returned the Crimea region it annexed in 2014, comments likely to reassure Western allies.
NAN reports that U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is one of the highest-ranking officials in the Trump administration to visit the African continent.
Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were on her itinerary.
Haley told reporters she hoped this was the beginning of “a stronger relationship with the AU and our African partners,” following a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Monday.
“The United States very much sees Africa as a very important part of the world. We see great opportunities in Africa, we see challenges in Africa, but we want to support and help in those situations.”
Africa hasn’t featured much in U.S. foreign policy over the last few years.
In mid-September, President Donald Trump for the first time turned his attention toward Africa, hosting a lunch meeting with the leaders of Ghana, South Africa and Senegal amongst others.
At the meeting, Trump spoke of the continent’s opportunities and the U.S. interest in creating jobs and investing in Africa.