Media statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, on international relations matters, Tuesday, 13 November 2012, DIRCO

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media,

In our briefing today, we will focus on the visit to SA by the UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, tensions between Israel and Gaza, the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, the importance of SA’s election to the ECOSOC, and provide an update on our preparations for the BRICS Summit.

1. Working Visit to SA by the UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Let me start off by mentioning that yesterday, 12 November 2012, I hosted the United Kingdom’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for Africa, Mr Mark Simmonds, for bilateral political and economic discussions. Mr Simmonds is in South Africa for a working visit. This is Mr Simmonds first official visit to South Africa, since his appointment as the Minister for Africa on 5 September 2012.

During our bilateral meeting, we discussed the implementation of the SA-UK bilateral cooperation programme.  South Africa and the UK have established a coordinating structure that meets every two years at Foreign Minister level, with the last having taken place in London in June 2011.

We also discussed the strengthening of bilateral political and economic relations with a particular focus on South Africa’s national priorities: i.e. health, education, rural development, fighting corruption and crime, creating jobs, as well as promoting tourism, trade and investment. African regional matters and the UK’s engagement in support of the African Agenda were also discussed.

2. Tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip

The Government of the Republic of South Africa has noted with great concern the recent escalation in hostilities between Gaza and Israel, which culminated in the death of six Palestinians and the wounding of four Israeli soldiers.

South Africa reiterates its call to both parties to ensure a peaceful resolution of that conflict and encourages both parties to refrain from any further hostilities.

The South African Government remains hopeful that peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine can be achieved through a process of negotiation, aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel within internationally recognized borders, based on those existing on and before 04 June 1967.

It is our view that further reprisals emanating from either side will only serve to harden positions on either side and culminate in further violence and the loss of civilian life thus jeopardising future negotiations.

3. COP18/CMP8

On the multilateral front, South Africa, as the outgoing President of COP17/CMP7, will attend the 18th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP18/CMP8) in Doha, Qatar, from 26 November to 07 December 2012.

In preparation for this, Cabinet has approved South Africa’s negotiating mandate for COP18/CMP8. The mandate approved by Cabinet seeks to move the negotiations forward, while ensuring that environmental integrity and credibility of the process can be maintained.

The first is the closure of the Ad hoc Working Group –Long term Cooperative Action, as agreed to in Durban. This should entail the adequate treatment of unresolved political issues, as well as comparability of effort by those countries who are not party to the Kyoto Protocol. 

In the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol, South Africa will be working towards the adoption of the amendment to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol, which will establish the second commitment period. In the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, South Africa will pursue the adoption of a plan of work to enhance ambition, not only in mitigation but also in adaptation and in the means of implementation as well.

Though at different stages of maturity, South Africa believes that progress needs to be made in all three ad hoc working groups to ensure that the outcome in Doha is balanced and successful.
On 27 November 2012, as part of South Africa’s legacy of its term as President of COP17/CMP7, the Minister will launch a book, “ThuthoYaBatho” Teachings from our People: Women Adapt to Climate Change’. The launch will take place in Doha during COP18/CMP8. The domestic launch of the book is scheduled for 03 December 2012. Further information will be provided closer to the date.

The book is a collection of climate change adaption initiatives from women across the developing world. It showcases women’s inventive and resourceful endeavours to find practical solutions to their changing environments. The central premise of the book is that elevating the status of women, already important agents of social change, is one of the most important climate change responses needed the world over.

4. The importance of South Africa’s election to the ECOSOC

On 08 November 2012, South Africa was overwhelmingly elected by the Members of the UN General Assembly to the 47-Member Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).
ECOSOC is one of the Principal Organs of the United Nations alongside the Security Council and General Assembly. South Africa finishes its two-year non-renewable, non-permanent membership of the Security Council on 31December 2012 and immediately assumes the membership of ECOSOC on the 1January 2013. South Africa last served in ECOSOC in 2004 to 2006.

ECOSOC is a Principal Organ of the United Nations responsible for economic and social development matters of the world. The Organ has a Charter mandate to drive the Development Agenda of the United Nations. It is significant that South Africa will be a member of this critical Organ of the United Nations at the time that the target date for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching, i.e. 2015. In this respect the debate has already started on the post-2015 Development Agenda.

The Membership of ECOSOC will provide South Africa an opportunity to contribute to the strengthening and reform of the Organ. It will further provide an opportunity for our country to be located at the centre of the debate on the Global Development Agenda including the acceleration of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

5. SA-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC)

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane is currently in Moscow, Russia, co-chairing the 11th session of the SA-Russia Inter-governmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
The ITEC is a bilateral cooperation mechanism between South Africa and the Russian Federation, which meets annually to strengthen mutually beneficial social, economic, and commercial relations as well as technical cooperation between the two countries.

The SA-Russia Treaty of Friendship and Partnership (2006) affirmed the strategic partnership between the two countries and set the guiding principles and framework for a partnership that will support the two countries’ national development priorities, the African Agenda and the establishment of an equitable, peaceful and democratic global governance system.

6. BRICS Summit, 2013

In conclusion, we would like to offer some update on our preparations for the BRICS Summit, which is scheduled for March 2013 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province.
Cabinet was briefed last Tuesday, 06 November 2012, on the state of preparations for South Africa’s hosting of the 5th BRICS Summit.

The proposed theme of the BRICS Summit is “BRICS and Africa –Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation.”

In choosing this theme, South Africa looks forward to sharing this event with the continent as the BRICS Forum provides enormous opportunities for economic growth and development in Africa.

Thank you

Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation

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