Opening Remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana
Dlamini Zuma at the 9th Joint Bilateral Commission between South Africa and Iran,
Pretoria, 21 August 2006
Your Excellency, Minister Manoucher Motakki,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
from South Africa and Iran,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is both an honour
and a privilege for me to welcome to you to the 9th Joint Bilateral Commission
(JBC) between South Africa and Iran. Allow me to extend a special and warm welcome
to the Iranian delegation and to express the hope that they will not only engage
in fruitful and productive discussions during the JBC, but that they will also
enjoy their stay in our beautiful city, Tshwane.
Your Excellency, this
session of the JBC provides us with the opportunity to assess the progress that
has been made since the previous session, which was held in 2004 in Tehran. In
this regard, it is gratifying to note that there has been significant contact
between our respective countries in both the multilateral and the bilateral spheres.
Firstly, with regard to the enhancement of South-South cooperation, we
have seen South Africa and Iran display a strong commitment towards strengthening
and promoting the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).
In close cooperation with Iran (as Chair of the IOR-ARC), the first meeting of
the Working Group of Heads of Diplomatic Missions of the IOR-ARC was led by HE
Deputy Minister Sheykhatar, in Pretoria earlier in May this year. I have been
informed that the meeting was a success in that it also provided an opportunity
for participants to share ideas for the 10th Anniversary of the IOR-ARC, which
will be held in 2007.
Indeed, the Working Group is critical in helping
not only to monitor the progress and speedy implementation of projects and programmes
of the Association, but also to contribute to fulfilling, in the spirit of multilateralism,
the Association's founding ideals of increased cooperation and shared benefits
to all. Your Excellency, I am sure that you will agree that South Africa and Iran
must continue their collaboration in all matters relating to the IOR-ARC.
Africa regards this inter-continental initiative as complementary to other inter-regional
initiatives such as the New Africa Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP). As you
are aware, following the Asian African Summit that was held in Jakarta in 2005,
the next Senior Officials Meeting will take place in South Africa from 1-3 September
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to appeal to you, when engaging
in discussions on NAASP, to explore the possibilities of how South Africa and
Iran could engage in further areas of co-operation in the three tiers of NAASP
interaction; namely government-to-government (political solidarity, economic cooperation
and socio-cultural relations); sub-regional cooperation; and people-to-people
We must focus on building a closer partnership between Africa
and Asia and we welcome the recent new commitment of the Islamic Republic of Iran
to the NEPAD.
South Africa's position in relation to the use of nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes by Iran is well known and based on the NPT which
provides under Article IV, and in conformity with Articles I, II and III, for
the "inalienable" right of all members, including Iran, to use nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes. South Africa has consistently stated that the matter
of Iran's use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes can be resolved peacefully
through negotiations within the IAEA. We hope that the outstanding issues within
the IAEA will be resolved as soon as possible and full support provided to its
Director General. However, as we all know, the matter has been taken to the UN
Security Council and we urge all parties to avoid confrontation and resume negotiations.
have witnessed a major tragedy unfold in the Middle East and like the rest of
the world the South African Government was relieved to learn that Resolution 1701,
aimed at ending the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, was passed
unanimously by the UN Security Council last week. The dangerous situation in the
Middle East, and the grave humanitarian crisis is a source of utmost concern to
us. The South African Government remains steadfast in its resolve and commitment
to support the process leading to a just and sustainable peace in the region.
Excellency, turning to Africa where we face major challenges not only in terms
of development but also post-conflict reconstruction and development I am pleased
to report that successful elections have now taken place in the Democratic Republic
of Congo. These were the first democratic elections in over four decades since
that country achieved independence on 30 June 1960. Close to 25 million out of
the targeted 28 million eligible voters registered for these elections. The elections
were conducted in a smooth manner, and we congratulate the Congolese people on
their achievement in this regard.
Your Excellency, I am aware that during
this JBC, the Economic Working Group will take an in depth look at the trade relations
between South Africa and Iran. Despite the fact that trade and investment have
grown steadily since the establishment of this JBC in 1995, the R 13 billion trade
deficit that still exists between our two countries points to impediments that
must be investigated and resolved.
Over the last year, the South African
Government has been briefed on numerous positive developments with regard to the
economic relationship between our respective countries. We appreciate the awarding
of the lucrative dollar contract to MTN to establish and operate a second mobile
operator license. We are also cognisant of the fact that the ARAYA-SASOL Joint
Venture Polymer plant has started commercial operations this year and that negotiations
between SASOL, PETROSA and the Iranian Government to establish eco-friendly gas-to
liquids plants in Iran are far advanced.
We need to advance close co-operation
between our respective mining sectors, both in terms of mining as well as mineral
I have also been informed that the number of South African
companies trading with Iran continues to increase, leading to much needed broadening
of the trade base.
Your Excellency, today we see under one roof, business
people from both the South African and from the Iranian private sector. While
certain South African companies are involved in business ventures in Iran, others
are seeking the opportunities to enter the Iranian market. South Africa certainly
welcomes the interest expressed by the Iranian private sector to embark on business
ventures in South Africa. Indeed South Africa welcomes interested partners who
recognise its entrepreneurial sprit, and helps it to achieve its goals.
ensure that we are successful in that which we have undertaken, the South African
government has embarked on the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South
Africa (AsgiSA). AsgiSA aims at enhancing and fast tracking our existing strategies
on redressing the inequalities of the past and existing imbalances through broad-based
black empowerment and addressing the critical skills shortage and education needs
of our country. Some of the priority sectors that offer significant potential
in terms of shared and accelerated growth include, tourism, chemicals, mineral
beneficiation, capital goods etc. In the forthcoming sessions, Iranian business
representatives can meet and discuss with their South African counter-parts on
how best to identify a niche for themselves in these priority sectors, which could
in turn benefit both South Africa and Iran.
Over the next two days, discussions
will turn to issues of cooperation and the progress that has been made by South
Africa and Iran with regard to a wide range of sectors, including trade and industry,
mining, the environment, arts and culture, sport etc. These wide-ranging issues
reflect the current status of our excellent bilateral relations.
I would like to wish you well in your deliberations, and to urge you to seize
the occasion to reach agreement on matters that will have a long lasting and meaningful
impact on improving and enhancing the quality of lives of the people of our respective
I would now like to invite my colleague, the Minister of Foreign
Affairs of Iran, His Excellency Minister Manoucher Motakki, to make his opening
Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 990 4853
Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152