Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe, on the occasion of the Farewell Lunch in honour of Ambassador Roberto Magnacca of Argentine, Villa Sterne, 12 December 2005

Your Excellencies, Ambassador and Mrs Magnacca
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honoured to host this occasion and to bid farewell, on behalf of the South African Government, to Ambassador Magnacca, after having served for nearly four and a half years as the Argentine Ambassador to South Africa. I am sure you will agree with me, Your Excellency, that four and a half years is not that much when we consider the challenges we as diplomats are faced with in the world today and before you know it is time to move on. In the words of a famous poet "a day's passed and we don't feel it; and a year's gone, and a time has come to say goodbye."

As many of you will know, Ambassador Magnacca came to South Africa with a distinguished diplomatic career already behind him. He has used his vast experience to contribute to the further enhancement of our bilateral relations, which were re-established in 1991.

Your Excellency,

As you are aware, our bilateral relations have remained strong and vibrant across a broad array of fields. Your tireless commitment to the strengthening our bilateral relations has culminated in the agreement to establish a Bi-national Commission at Foreign Minister level. For over a year you have ardently championed this important Agreement which was signed on 18 September 2005 by Minister Dlamini Zuma and her Argentine counterpart, His Excellency Dr Rafael Bielsa. The Bi-national Commission will facilitate the structured management of bilateral relations under the immediate control of the Foreign Ministers of our two countries assisted by the relevant technical line-function Departments.

Our bilateral relations will be further guided by a number of bilateral agreements that are now in the final stages of preparation. They include Agreements on Extradition and on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Co-operation in the Fields of Science and Technology, Co-operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, Co-operation in Sport and Recreation, Cultural Co-operation, and the Co-ordination of Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Services.

In addition, both our countries share very similar and common positions and objectives regarding issues such as the development agenda of the South; the centrality and importance of multilateralism and of the United Nations system; and the reform of global economic governance and the global trading system. South Africa and Argentine are also members of a number of multilateral organisations important for the agenda of the South. These include the Cairns Group, the Valdivia Group, the Antarctic Treaty System, the Zone of Peace and Co-operation of the South Atlantic, the G20+ and others.

Your Excellency,

That our relations are on a sound footing is therefore not in doubt, but we need to do more to improve our co-operation. We need to build on these initiatives to help develop a common vision that will contribute to the agenda of the South. In this regard, we need to accelerate our engagement in trade liberalisation and integration through the current Mercosur/SACU free trade negotiations as well as to encourage people-to-people co-operation through culture, sport and academic exchanges.

I hope that you will not forget us and will continue in your future endeavours to support joint efforts between our two countries to contribute to the creation of a better world. You have already left a strong foundation from which you successor can build from and we look forward to a continuation in the relations between our two countries.

Your Excellency, as you and Mrs Magnacca leave South Africa, I would like to pay tribute to the personal legacy you will leave behind; your always good-natured, impeccably professional and gracious style of diplomacy that has made a great impression on all that you interacted with - and will assure you a warm welcome if you wish to return in the future.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and trust that you and Mrs Magnacca will have a safe trip.


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