By Agence France-Presse
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday praised Chad as an “important partner” in fighting terror, and hoped that a travel ban placed on the central African state by the Trump administration will soon be eased.
In a brief trip in the capital N’Djamena on a truncated maiden trip of Africa, Tillerson said the United States supported the fight by the so-called G5 Sahel countries against jihadists in the volatile Saharan region.
Chad is an “important partner” in fighting terrorism, Tillerson told a press conference.
Chad last year was stunned to find itself on one of six mainly-Muslim countries whose countries are affected by President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
The US military has a drone unit at the N’Djamena airport, Washington backs a multinational force fighting Boko Haram jihadists, helps train Chadian troops and provides military equipment to its armed forces, according to a Chadian military official.
Tillerson said he wanted “to ensure that the people of Chad understand they are welcome in the United States” and argued that the country’s inclusion on the list “has never harmed in any way whatsoever the cooperation between our two countries.”
He said progress had been made with dealing with what has been cited as the reason for including Chad on the list — problems with its passports, which are not biometric.
“We had a very good trip from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the State Department late last year… and we had a very good exchange and many, many important positive steps have been taken by the government of Chad to strengthen the control over its own passports, to strengthen the information-sharing,” he said.
“These steps I think are going to allow us to begin to normalize the travel relationship with Chad,” he said.
– Trip cut short –
“There will be a report prepared in the United States later this month. That will be reviewed by the president in April.”
He headed to the Nigerian capital Abuja, where he was expected to stay for several hours before heading for home in the early evening.
He had initially been scheduled to stay there overnight, hold further meetings on Tuesday with US embassy staff and then fly back to Washington.
However, the schedule was shortened because of work, aides said.
“Due to demands in the secretary’s schedule he is returning to the US one day early, after concluding official meetings in Chad and Nigeria,” Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein told the press.
Tillerson, making his first trip to Africa as the senior-most US diplomat, has visited Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya since last Wednesday.
But the African tour has coincided with the shock announcement of a possible summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump over the nuclear standoff in the Korean peninsula.
Tillerson, while in East Africa, cancelled scheduled events on Saturday on the grounds of ill-health.