Negotiations on Angola and Namibia will enter a new stage when United States, Angolan, South African, and Cuban negotiators sit down together in London tomorrow and Wednesday. The two days of talks follow discussions on Africa last Friday between US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester Crocker and his Soviet counterpart, Anatoli Adamishin. Those talks, also in London, focused on Southern Africa and the humanitarian problems in Ethiopia.
The US, officials say, hopes this week's talks will be able to get beyond rhetoric to address the practical questions about the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Angola and Namibia and the granting of independence to Namibia.
There is no pre-cooked agenda, sources say, but all the parties are aware of the issues on the table. They hope to work through most, if not all, of the major topics in the two days. Neither US aid to UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) nor national reconciliation in Angola will be on the table, US officials say.
There is no direct connection between the US-Soviet talks and tomorrow's meeting, US officials say, but the Soviets have been generally supportive of the process.
The all-party meeting comes in response to new US ideas on how to proceed, informed officials say. The initiative was accompanied by a warning that both sides must show they are serious or time will run out for a settlement in this administration, the officials say.
``The meeting is significant in and of itself,'' says one well-placed specialist. ``We don't expect any major breakthroughs, but this is a good opportunity to get a serious process moving and to locate the areas for further talks.''
The major issue is a schedule for the withdrawal of Cuban and South African troops. Angola has agreed in principle to remove Cuban troops over a four-year period, according to informed US sources, while demanding that all South African troops leave Namibia in one year. The US says this is not good enough.
The Angolans say they need the Cuban security guarantee, given South Africa's penchant for sending troops into Angola despite promises not to do so. US officials say the withdrawal of South African forces from Namibia and United Nations-sponsored independence for that territory would create a sufficient security buffer against South Africa. The South Africans insist that the Cubans must leave quickly.
Tomorrow's meeting will be the first direct Cuban and South African talks, though Angola and South Africa have negotiated face to face before. The Cubans are attending as part of Angola's delegation, US officials say.
Cuba has about 40,000 troops in Angola. It recently sent a new 5,000-man armored unit to Angola. This force has been deployed in the Southwest near Namibia, US officials say. This appears to be a direct response to the presence of several thousand South African troops in southeastern Angola.
The South African troops have been supporting UNITA troops against Angolan government forces since last fall. But US officials say the antigovernment offensive has bogged down around Cuito Cuanavale. Faced with the prospect of being outflanked by Cuban troops, they say, the South Africans have pulled back some of their forces.
US analysts say the Cuban troops are probably in place as a negotiating lever on South Africa rather than in preparation for an offensive. However, they say the current military stalemate should underline for everyone the need for a diplomatic solution.