NAIROBI (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.

The talks in Eritrea also explored ways of enhancing ties in energy, mining, information technology, education and health, Information Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet late on Thursday.

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Yemane did not respond to request for more information on Friday.

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 on the continent.

Speaking when he met Lavrov’s delegation on Thursday, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh blamed the crisis in Ukraine on what he described as the United State’s “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 the Red Sea port of Massawa.

There was no mention of the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where Eritrean troops were fighting 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.

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by James Macharia Chege and Nick Macfie)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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