Opening Address of her Excellency Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa during the 8th Joint Commission between the Republic of South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, 14 December 2004

Your Excellency, Minister Kamal Kharazzi
Excellencies Ambassadors
Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me to start by expressing on behalf of the South African delegation our sincere appreciation for the exemplary Iranian hospitality we are once again enjoying. Minister, thank you for your kind words of welcome as well as the valuable insight into the status of the strategic relationship between our two countries. Thank you also for your support and friendship over the years.

The 8th gathering of the Joint Bilateral Commission takes place in the year that South Africa celebrates her 10th year of freedom and democracy. During this year we have been reflecting on the road we have traveled since the first democratic elections, the progress we have achieved as a young democracy whilst at the same time gearing ourselves for the manifold challenges of the next decade. We are also pleased that our friends from the international community joined us in our celebrations. In this regard we would once more like to reiterate our deep gratitude to our friends including the Islamic Republic of Iran who, through their unflinching support and sacrifices ensured the birth of a new South African nation. We also like to record our thanks to the government and people of Iran for their support in our nation building process.

Minister, since our last meeting there were several significant developments in the multilateral sphere that affects our two countries. The most high profile issue is the recent release of the report of the Secretary Generals high level panel on the reform of the United Nations. In this era where there is increasing tendency towards unilateralism we are provided with an historic opportunity to ensure that we work together in strengthening and enhancing the global multilateral system especially the reform of the United Nations for the benefit of all of its member states.

Iran and South Africa as well as the NAM have interacted closely in the IAEA to ensure that the interest of the developing countries are safeguarded and that all countries big or small have the same opportunities in the field of developing nuclear energy and technology for peaceful purposes.

Both South Africa and Iran in our quest to enhance South-South Co-operation are committed to strengthening the Indian Ocean Rim Association for regional cooperation to ensure that this young regional organization becomes an effective economic block for the enhancement of inter regional trade and investment. We would like to congratulate Iran as the incumbent chair of the IOR-ARC and we look forward to participating in the ministerial brainstorming session as well as the ministerial meeting to be held in Iran in 2005. We are confident that under the able leadership of Tehran the organization will be strengthened and our common objectives advanced.

In April 2005 Asian and African countries will be partaking in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first Asia-Africa Summit held in Bandung in April 1955. The leaders of Asia and Africa will also assemble on this occasion to launch a new strategic partnership between Asia and Africa. This will provide the countries of both the continents with the opportunity to foster a strategic relationship between the people's of Asia and Africa, and tap into the vast economic potential of both for the mutual benefit of all its peoples.

At the present time, Africa is engaged in a deep and fundamental process of reform and regeneration in order to unleash the enormous potential of Africa. Our new organization, the African Union, has been launched and various organs to ensure peace and stability have been created, including the peace and security council and the Pan African Parliament. The socion-economic development programme of the AU, the New Partnership for Africa's development (NEPAD) is beginning to make an impact and opportunities for investment are emerging at national and regional levels.

In this regard, the Islamic Republic of Iran's intention to support the NEPAD initiative have not gone unnoticed. We are delighted that you have taken the initiative to form the Iran/Africa Cooperation Forum and the African Headquarters. Both these initiates, which supports the NEPAD programme of action, will undoubtedly facilitate relations between the African continent and Iran.

Your Excellency, over the last 10 years of our relationship, we have put in place a legal framework for our relations that consist of 63 Agreements. These agreements cover a vast area of common interests that include economic issues, cultural co-operation, the exchange of sports teams, health co-operation, housing co-operation as well as the sharing of experiences in women's affairs and security issues. We must use our gathering this year to assess the value of this framework and find ways to add new energy to the relationship.

During our meeting in my country last year, we expressed our concern that trade relations between our two countries needs attention. We undertook to broaden the trade base and encourage companies from both countries to venture new opportunities existing within our respective economies. I am happy to report, Minister that both private and public sectors have taken heed of our call. The South African Revenue Service reports that bilateral trade between our two countries have increased by 9% over the period January to September 2004 when compared to the same period in 2003. South African exports to Iran have increased by over 30% during this period.

I am also informed that the number of South African companies trading with Iran has almost doubled in this period. The private sector is also showing their commitment to the trade relationship through investment. I am informed that South African investments in Iran currently exceeds US$1.5 billion whilst negotiations for an additional US$ 4 billion is nearing finalization. We also welcome the confidence of the Iranian private sector investing in South Africa. Investments totaling US$ 150 million has already flowed into my country , and we want to encourage them to continue choosing South Africa as the destination of choice for their investments.

Excellency, we have used the opportunity of our presence here to bring along South African private and public sector business people. Some of them are already deeply involved in Iran and others will be seeking opportunities to enter the Iranian market. I wish them well and look forward to the outcome of their deliberations.

Mr Minister, when we charge our officials with their various tasks, we look forward at the end of this Commission to seeing the results of their work which will take forward the implementation of our joint vision and the further strengthening of the strong partnership that exist between our two countries. You will agree, Minister that the core outcomes of the joint commission must filter down to all South Africans and Iranians and impact positively on enhancing the quality of life of all our peoples

Honorable Minister Kharazzi, let me conclude by taking this opportunity to express South Africa's heartfelt gratitude for the enthusiasm in promoting relations not only with South Africa but also with Africa.

We applaud your stance in seeking to build relations as equal partners with South Africa.

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 990 4853.

Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

14 December 2004

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa