George Bush's victory could give a needed spurt to negotiations on Angola and Namibia that are slated to reconvene Friday in Geneva. The four-party talks, among Angola, Cuba, and South Africa, with the United States mediating, have been stalled for the last month.
Angola and Cuba were apparently waiting to see who won the US presidential race before deciding if they should show more flexibility, say well-placed diplomats involved in the negotiating process.
``If Dukakis had won, the Angolans would have been able to stick their tongues out at the Reagan administration,'' says one diplomat who is an Africa specialist. ``With Bush winning, Luanda must realize they may well have [US mediator Chester] Crocker around for four more years.''
Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis had promised to cut off aid to the antigovernment UNITA forces in Angola and impose wide-ranging sanctions on South Africa.
President-elect George Bush has pledged to continue aiding UNITA as long as the Soviets supply the Angolan government, as well as to pursue national reconciliation in Angola's civil war. Mr. Bush strongly supports the seven-year US effort to mediate the withdrawal of the estimated 50,000 Cuban troops from Angola in exchange for a South African pullout from Namibia.
Soviet pressure on Angola and South Africa's election results may also be working to jar the talks free.
According to senior Western diplomats, Moscow has signaled Washington that the Angolans are ready to bargain. One well-placed source said Moscow ``twisted some arms'' during the late-October visit of Angolan President Jos'e Eduardo dos Santos to Moscow.
Mr. Crocker, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, is slated to meet today with his Soviet counterpart, Anatoly Adamishin, to prepare for the Nov. 11-13 Geneva talks.
South Africa's municipal elections late last month may have allowed new flexibility on that country's part, US officials say. The results avoided a big conservative party gain, which the Botha government had feared, and could give the government domestic leeway to negotiate a solution in Angola and Namibia.
``Crocker didn't want the parties to get together again unless both sides were ready to be forthcoming,'' a senior US official says. ``He has received those assurances.''
While US officials say it looks like the parties are now willing to compromise, the key will be how much.
The US mediators say that the positions submitted so far have brought agreement to within the realm of possibility. But they are cautious in predicting what the Geneva talks will yield until they see what kind of flexibility each side shows at the table.
Even in the best scenario, these officials say, an agreement would not be signed in Geneva. The parties agree that any signing would take place at a formal round of talks in Brazzaville, Congo.
The remaining issues revolve around a plan for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. If agreement can be reached, South Africa will allow the United Nations to bring neighboring Namibia to independence.
A backdrop to the four-party talks is Angola's civil war. If not resolved, it could scuttle the international peace process. Black African leaders have been pushing the Angolan government to negotiate with UNITA. Several have reportedly agreed to call a special summit to press for reconciliation, once an Angola-Namibia agreement is signed. Moscow is also pressing Angola, in part because of the troubles it faces in Afghanistan by the lack of political reconciliation.
Luanda is reportedly now trying for reconciliation without UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, but UNITA is saying no.