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São Tomé e Principe - Foreign Relations

The Organization for African Unity recognized the MLSTP in 1972, yet until independence in 1975, Sao Tome and Principe had few ties abroad except those that passed through Portugal. Following independence Sao Tome y Principe adopted a radical stance in its foreign policy; however, growing dissatisfaction with distressfully inadequate levels of Soviet aid has led the government to reevaluate its ties to the East bloc.

President Pinto da Costa met with Omar Bongor his Gabonese counterpart, signaling a thaw in relations between the two countries. The president also replaced his foreign minister and minister of planning, both of whom were staunch supporters of leftist policies. Finally, Sao Tome y Principe's nearly total reliance on Western aid, coupled with the government's disappointment with Soviet aid, portended continuing movement away from its earlier, pro-Soviet orientation, as well as improved relations with its African neighbors and a more liberal political culture. Opposition from the left was as unlikely to have any impact on government policies as protests from the right.

Following independence, the new government sought to expand its diplomatic relationships. In 1976 , after independence, the question was raised of forming a new type of coordinating body, but it became immediately apparent that this was regarded, by some if not by all, as undesirable. It was accepted that the five governments should not seek to form a 'lusophone grouping' within the OAU, and that basic political cooperation would in any case have to await the emergence of structured political parties, only then in prospect or course of formation. Even so, a three-day exploratory meeting of foreign ministers of the five governments met on Sao Tomé in May 1976. Each government reaffirmed its position of military nonalignment, and western apprehensions about east-bloc bases being established in these territories were not realised. While pursuing anti-capitalist domestic policies, each regime went out of its way to secure good relations with leading western countries, as well as with the UN and its agencies.

A common language, tradition, and colonial experience led to close collaboration between Sao Tome and other ex-Portuguese colonies in Africa, particularly Angola. For long Angola was a vital partner having maintained a battalion of soldiers to guard the Presidency following an alleged coup in 1978. An Angolan garrison, with some Guinea-Bissau involvement, protected Sao Tome following threats to its security in the late 1970s. Angolan troops, which had been deployed in support of the government since March 1978, were withdrawn from the country in 1991. Angola gained little from its costly assistance to Sao Tome in the 1980s, except a friendly foreign policy stance by the latter and reassurance that it was guarding its own flank against a common threat of subversion.

But recently, its relationship with Nigeria has grown significantly as a result of their mutual oil interests. President Obasanjo personally stepped in to prevent a military coup in mid- 2003.

Sao Tomean relations with other African countries in the region, such as Gabon and the Republic of the Congo, are good also. In December 2000, Sao Tome signed the African Union treaty, which the National Assembly later ratified.

The Sao Tomean Government generally maintained a foreign policy based on nonalignment and cooperation with any country willing to assist in its economic development. In recent years, it also has increasingly emphasized ties to the United States and Western Europe.

São Tomé and Principe has cordial relations with the UK. There is no resident diplomatic representation by either party. There is no DFID aid program with the country but assistance is given through the EU. Trade is limited. UK exports were valued at £0.32 million in 2006 and UK imports amounted to £0.13 million in the same year.





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