Address by Deputy President Zuma at a Banquet in Honour of Deputy Prime Minister Aziz of Iraq

Director of the Programme,
His Excellency, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, Mr Tariq Aziz,
Cabinet Ministers present,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start off, your Excellency, by saying how glad I am to be able to extend to you and your delegation a warm welcome, on behalf of our government and people.

It is indeed, truly a great honour to welcome you to South Africa. We have been hoping that you would be able to visit our country for some time now, in order that we may reciprocate your gracious hospitality towards many South African delegations that have been travelling to Iraq in recent years.

I am sure that you have found a warm welcome from our people throughout the country- if not from the beautiful weather Your visit will further enhance the warm relations we are building between the Republics of South Africa and Iraq, especially since our two countries are currently looking at opportunities to expand our bilateral political and economic relations.

There is no doubt, given the persevering spirit of both the African peoples, that we will succeed in cementing mutually beneficial trade and diplomatic relations. Our tireless work is spurred on by the immense opportunities it holds for the citizens of our two countries.

Your Excellency, you are honouring us with a visit during a significant period in the history of Africa, as we prepare to launch the African Union next week. The Union is well positioned to lead Africa into the 21st Century and ensure that we move swiftly towards sustainable development, an end to conflicts and achieve African unity.

At the same time, we also need to work hard to strengthen Afro-Arab co-operation. Increased trade and diplomatic relations between Africa and the Arab world will enhance broad political, economic, social and cultural ties among our people. It will also provide much-needed impetus for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

We believe that through NEPAD we will be able to address the legacy of centuries of colonialism, apartheid and underdevelopment.

Distinguished guests, through our chairing of the Non-Aligned Movement, South Africa has sought to develop and strengthen economic and political relations between non-aligned countries.

This we are doing because we believe that justice and equity will never be achieved whilst the majority of the world is fragmented, disempowered and ignored by "bully states." This is the kind of world order we must continue to seek to change. No part of the world, region or country should give itself a right or authority to decide for others. This we must not allow. All of us must respect international institutions such as the United Nations, and no country must put itself above these institutions, or bully these institutions into taking decisions, which promote the interests of that specific country.

Your Excellency let me reiterate that South Africa is deeply saddened by the suffering of the Iraqi people caused by twelve years of sanctions. Our concern was highlighted last year when South African civil society, accompanied by two Government Ministers, delivered a cargo of humanitarian aid to Iraq.

We maintain our position that the UN should lift sanctions against Iraq, and we strongly subscribe to the Non Aligned Movement position pertaining to the illegality of the "no fly zones," in particular to their enforcement by military means. This would enable Iraq to fully co-operate with all UN structures in spite of recognising double standards in this regard.

Mr Deputy Prime Minister, we were encouraged by the warm welcome that Iraq received at the Arab Summit in Beirut in March this year and at the Organisation of Islamic Countries in Malaysia and Sudan.

We view this normalising of relations as a positive step, and encourage further reconciliation between Iraq and its neighbours. For us, this indicates that the Arab world is also of the view that regional co-operation strengthens individual nations and creates greater scope for mutually beneficial relations to develop internationally.

Finally, I would like to express our enthusiasm for expanding relations between our countries, our peoples and governments at all levels. South Africa believes that solid economic relations can be the foundation of lasting friendship and expansion of co-operation in all other spheres of life.

I hope that this visit will be the first of many, and that it will yield new economic possibilities that will be to the benefit of both South Africa and Iraq.

Your Excellency, South Africa is a beautiful country with much to offer and I am sure that your programme will afford you the opportunity of at least sampling some of the outstanding landscape and cultural wealth that our country has to offer.

Our game parks are ready for th picking. While other countries offer the big 5, we boast the Big 10, from the lion to the hippo. Not to mention our golden beaches, renowned world heritage sites, the rolling hills, the famous mountains of all shapes and sizes, and of course our beautiful, warm people.

We trust that you and your delegation will enjoy your stay, and that this visit will lead to even deeper and stronger relations between our two countries.

Once again, thank you for honouring us with your visit

I Thank You.

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