The State Department's top specialist on Africa will meet in Paris today and Saturday with Angola's foreign minister, the third high-level meeting in five months between two countries that do not have diplomatic relations and disagree over the presence of Cuban troops in Angola.
Despite these differences, U.S. officials view the continuation of such meetings as encouraging and at least potentially significant because of the key role Angola would have to play in any future settlement of the strife in southern Africa and in the independence of neighboring Namibia.
There have been increasing signs in recent months that both countries are also interested in exploring the prospects for closer ties, though U.S. officials say there will be no discussion of establishing diplomatic relations with the self-described Marxist state at the forthcoming meeting.
In announcing the meeting between delegations led by Assistant Secretary of State Chester A. Crocker and Angolan Foreign Minister Paulo Jorge, State Department spokesmen gave no details of what would be on the agenda.
The Namibian and Cuban issues are certain to be discussed, however, and some officials here believe Angola may also have a much broader set of issues in mind involving its growing economic problems and its relations with the West.
The Reagan administration has made clear that it sees a close connection between the western effort to gain peaceful independence and black-majority rule for Namibia, still governed by South Africa, and the withdrawal from Angola of some 12,000-15,000 Cuban troops that have been there for six years.
While there is a process set up for negotiations on the Namibian independence plan, there is no similar process to establish some understanding on the Cuban troop issue.
The Cubans are in Angola at the invitation of the Luanda government. They are supposed to be a counter to South African forces that carry out cross-border attacks into Angola against guerrilla forces from Namibia that use Angola as a sanctuary.
Crocker will travel to Paris from London, where he has been discussing the Namibian issue with Brand Fourie, South Africa's director general for foreign affairs and information.
Crocker met with Jorge in Luanda in October, and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. met with him at the United Nations in New York in September. In December, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos also appealed for direct talks with the United States.
American specialists believe there are signs that Angola is reassessing the value of its ties to the Soviet Union and Cuba, but that there are differing views within the Angolan hierarchy on what, if anything, should be changed.