Statement of Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad on his Recent Visit to the Middle East

It will be recalled that a few weeks ago, on 24 February - 03 March, I had an occasion to visit the Middle East, in particular to visit Kuwait and Egypt.

I have just returned from another visit to the Middle East region from 05-15 April 2001. During this trip to the Middle East, I visited the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Republic of Iraq and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. South Africa considers the Middle East as an area of huge political, economic, cultural and strategic significance to us all. South Africa attaches importance to the well-being, peace and stability of this strategic region. South Africa can’t remain unaffected by developments taking place in the Middle East. That is why we have to remain seized with developments in that region.

We are concerned with the dangerous and destructive escalation of the violence in the Middle East region in the last few days. The threatening descend by the Middle East region into an all-out war cannot serve the interests of world peace, and thus has to be stopped immediately. The crossborder, military raid actions have no place in our new century. The international community cannot stand by whilst violence threatens not just regional peace and stability, but also world peace.

On 06 April and 11 April 200, I had the pleasure of holding bilateral discussions with senior officials of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. On 06 April 2001, I had extensive discussions with the Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Transport and Acting Foreign Minister, H.E Mr. Muhammad Al-Khalaldeh. On 11 April 2001 I again had extensive discussions with the Secretary-General of the Foreign Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, H.E Mr. Shaher Bak.

In these discussions we exchanged views on the state of bilateral relations between South Africa and Jordan. We agreed in particular to encourage our business sectors to interact to the mutual benefit of both countries. Jordanian officials indicated that the establishment of Exclusive Economic Zones in Jordan and the soon-to-be signed free trade agreement with the USA provide South African businesses with huge export earnings potential.

We further exchanged views on the deteriorating and alarming situation in the Middle East. Both parties agreed that the basis for a lasting solution to the Middle East crisis is compliance with UN resolutions by Israel, including its withdrawal from all Occupied Arab Territories, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and that at the core of any solution of the Middle East conflict must be the creation of a viable, stable and independent Palestine State.

On 07-10 April 2001, I made an official visit to the Republic of Iraq. During this visit, I held in-depth and bilateral discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Tariq Aziz, my counter-part the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nissar Hamdoon, and the Commissioner for the Iraqi Electricity Commission, Mr. Mahjoob, and the Senior Deputy Minister for Oil, Mr. Hamad.

Whilst in Iraq, I held extensive discussions with the Head of the United Nations Office in Iraq, the Assistant Under-Secretary of the United Nations, Mr. Tun Myat, as well as the head of the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq, Mr. Beat Schweizer.

There was an agreement to encourage South African private sector companies and our State Enterprises to get involved in a significant way with the United Nations "Oil-for-Food Program" and the general reconstruction of the battered (by sanctions) Iraq economy and infrastructure.

South Africa is concerned about the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Iraq as a result of sanctions.

I paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 12-14 April 2001. During this visit I had extensive exchange of views with his Royal Highness, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud Al Faisal Al-Saud. During our discussions with His Royal Highness, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we exchanged views on a number of bilateral issues of mutual interest, in particular the ban by Saudi Arabia on import of South African beef as a result of the foot-and-mouth disease. It was agreed that Saudi Arabia would send a technical team to South Africa the soonest to study measures put in place to combat the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease.

The two sides exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East. They condemned Israeli use of excessive and disproportionate force against innocent Palestinians and measures of collective punishment practiced by Israel. They called on Israel to comply with all UN resolutions. They called on Israel to put an immediate end to closure and blockades of Palestinian territories. They agreed that only the creation of a viable and stable Palestinian State, enjoying prosperity and economic progress, would go the longest to assure the Israelis of their genuine security and wellbeing in the Middle East. In this context they called on the sponsorship of the Middle East Peace Process to be unbiased and even-handed.

The two sides exchanged views also on the situation between Iraq and Kuwait. They welcomed the progress that was registered during the Amman Arab League Summit in resolving this issue. They called on all countries of the world to respect the inviolability of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of a future Palestinian State, Kuwait, Iraq and other states in the Middle East.

On 13 April 2001 I held discussions with the Assistant Secretary-General: Political Affairs, of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Dr Hamad Al-Sulaity. We both agreed to double our efforts in encouraging closer Afro-Arab cooperation and in particular SADC-GCC co-operation. Both parties also welcomed the opportunity presented by the workshop on SADC-GCC co-operation to be held in Johannesburg on 04 October 2001.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT BASETSANA THOKOANE

OFFICE NO : 012 351 0174

CELL NO : 083 443 7740

ISSUED BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA, MR. AZIZ PAHAD.

PRIVATE BAG X152

PRETORIA

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20TH APRIL 2001

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