In two separate sideline -meetings, the head of Liberia's delegation to this year's African Union Summit, Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, and his counterparts from Egypt and China discussed wide range of issues, focusing on the deepening of bilateral ties and support to Liberia in its fight against Ebola.
In his meeting with His Excellency Zhang Ming, Vice Foreign Minister and Special Envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Minister Ngafuan extolled China's extraordinary demonstration of solidarity with the Government and people of Liberia during the Ebola crisis, which he said distinguished China as one of Liberia's "all-weather friends".
According to a press release, Minister Ngafuan thanked international partners, including China for the outpouring of support and assistance to the Government of Liberia in its anti-Ebola fight. He said that due to the strong leadership of President Sirleaf and the resilience and cooperation of the Liberian people buttressed by strong partnership with China and other members of the international community, Liberia is now seeing the light end of the tunnel as the country walks the last but critical mile in the fight against Ebola.
Minister Ngafuan stressed that as Liberia begins to recover from the crisis, it was critical that all partners and private sector actors, including Chinese contractors and investors fully resume operation and projects that were suspended at the height of the Ebola crisis.
He informed the Chinese Envoy of the call by the UN Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) and other members of the international community, with the endorsement of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, for the cancellation of debt of the three countries worst affected by Ebola. He said debt cancellation will give Liberia and other worst-affected countries more fiscal space to cope with the huge socio-economic effects of the crisis, and therefore called for China’s support to the call at the relevant international levels.
For his part, the Chinese vice Foreign Minister and Special Envoy of President Xi Jinping hailed President Ellen Johnson’s strong and effective leadership in the fight against Ebola and expressed President Jinping's heartiest condolences to President Sirleaf and the people of Liberia for the lives lost to Ebola.
The Chinese Special Envoy Zhang Mings said that as Liberia's second largest trading partner, China was deeply interested in the deepening of economic and other forms of cooperation with Liberia. He noted that China is committed to the partnership with Liberia and was prepared to continue to support Liberia in its post-Ebola recovery efforts.
Mr. Ming noted that as a result of the Ebola crisis and its damaging impact on the socio-economic development of countries affected and the knock-on effects on the entire African continent, China has decided to include health cooperation as one of the major pillars of its engagement with Africa and will include it as an agenda item at the upcoming Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) scheduled to convene soon in South Africa.
The Chinese envoy in a separate meeting held on January 26, 2014 with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt, His Excellency Samel Shoukry held on the margins of the ongoing AU's 24th Ordinary Session, the two ministers agreed that resumption of normal bilateral cooperation was critical to Liberia’s recovery; and therefore decided that the long-postponed Joint Commission Meeting between officials and private sector actors from the two countries should be convened this year at a date and venue to be later agreed.
In this connection, Minister Shoukry promised that Egyptian companies that were pursuing projects in Liberia, including the Arab Contractors, which was pursuing housing and other projects here would soon begin to robustly re-engage.
Minister Shoukry also extended condolences to the government and people of Liberia for the loss of lives on account of the Ebola epidemic and promised that Egypt is poised to making further contributions to Liberia’s post-Ebola recovery.