Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation, IOR-ARC Council of Ministers Meeting 26 August 2004 Opening Remarks by Ms Sue van der Merwe, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa.

Your Excellencies

First, I would like to add my thanks to that of my colleagues to the Sri Lankan government and the people of Sri Lanka for the warm and gracious hospitality that has been extended to us. We would also like to express our gratitude to the meeting for appointing South Africa as rapporteur for the session.

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has asked me to tender her special apology for her absence from this meeting. She has a particularly keen interest in this Association and its work and regrets that she is not able to be with us here today.

South Africa welcomes the sentiments already expressed for the opportunity to return to the original charter of the IOR-ARC signed in 1997 which emphasised the development of economic ties between the member states of the IOR-ARC.

In pursuance of the objectives of the original charter, South Africa is also pleased to note progress made towards the establishment of Preferential Trade Agreements between member states. This will provide a valuable platform for enhancing economic interaction in the region; in particular enhancing trade and investment flows, trade liberalisation as well as the sustainable exploitation of the vast tourism potential of the Association's members.

South Africa is supportive of close co-operation with the IOR-ARC Dialogue partners and welcomes their presence here today. We look forward to an expanded co-operation between member states and the Dialogue partners in the future.

In the light of the Chairperson's report on the future direction of the IOR-ARC, South Africa would support and encourage the opportunity to hold a brainstorming session in conjunction with the next Council of Ministers meeting in Teheran. This brainstorming would serve as a platform to share views amongst member states on the future direction of the IOR-ARC. May we suggest that Iran, as the next Chair of IOR-ARC and host of the next meeting, might prepare a document, in consultation with member states, that would act as a discussion document for the brainstorming.

In conclusion, may I add South Africa's thanks to Mauritius for supporting the Executive Director in these first important years of IOR-ARC's work, and further thank the Executive Director for his excellent work. South Africa endorses and welcomes the fact that member states have now taken over collective responsibility in this regard. South Africa further supports the decision to rotate the position of Executive Director in the future.

Once again, Your Excellency, on behalf of South Africa, thank you for your generous hospitality and the excellent arrangements for the smooth running of this conference.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa