Toast Remarks of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, in honour of His Excellency, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, on the occasion of the State Banquet, Tuynhuys, Cape Town, 5 September 2006

Your Excellency Mr Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation,
Your Excellencies, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, business leaders and other members of the Russian delegation,
Presiding Officers of our national parliament,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers of South Africa,
Premier of the Western Cape,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners and members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We are truly delighted that Your Excellency and your delegation have honoured us with your important visit. On behalf of the people and government of South Africa, I am privileged to welcome Your Excellency and all our friends from the Russian Republic, representing both the public and private sectors.

We would like to take advantage of your presence among us, Your Excellency, to convey our warmest greetings to the wonderful people of Russia, who during the most difficult period of our struggle against apartheid, opened their hearts, their homes, their institutions and their country to all of us, South Africans, and indeed to many freedom fighters from other countries, and provided us with the support we needed as we prosecuted the struggles against colonialism and apartheid, and prepared the qualified professionals we needed to help reconstruct our country. For us, this is a poignant moment in our history when our people have this wonderful opportunity, on South African soil, to convey to the Russian people our humble debt of gratitude.

Your Excellency, the links between our peoples have existed for many years, including the time, more than a hundred years ago, when the Russian people supported the Afrikaner people during the difficult years of the Anglo-Boer South African War. After we attained our freedom in 1994, South Africa and Russia entered into a new strategic partnership dedicated to the achievement of mutually beneficial progress.

This is a partnership whose vision is informed by the same historical and political perspective of how humanity should confront various global challenges, including those of poverty and underdevelopment, and the need to build a peaceful world, free of the threat of terrorism and annihilation through weapons of mass destruction.

Accordingly, even the vast landmasses and the great oceans that separate our two countries could not act as a barrier to the development of the common vision we hold, expressed among other things by your theme on Russian domestic challenges when you, Your Excellency, chose for the State of the Nation Address this year the theme of 'National Renewal', and we similarly spoke of the 'Age of Hope', referring to the same challenges of modernising our economies, addressing inequalities, fighting corruption, both in government and in business, as well as creating the conditions necessary for the realisation of a better life for both our peoples.

Clearly, Your Excellency, we need to use this common perspective and harness our relative strengths for the shared benefit of our two countries. Among other things, as we have agreed, we must improve and strengthen our economic relations by enhancing co-operation among our business people and increasing trade and investment between our countries.

We must work to encourage people-to-people contact, including through cultural, scientific and educational exchange programmes as well as promoting two-way tourism. We must work together to unlock the secrets of nature through scientific inquiry, and use such new knowledge for the all-round development of all humanity. In this regard, and because together we agree that we need to develop our long-established friendship and solidarity to higher levels of co-operation, today we signed a number of important bilateral agreements, including the momentous Treaty of Friendship and Partnership.

In this regard, I would like to join Your Excellency in expressing our sincere appreciation of the work done by the Joint Inter-Governmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-operation (ITEC), which has established its place as a vitally important mechanism for the further strengthening of our economic relations.

We are very pleased with the progress we have made through our bilateral ministerial meetings, which provided the basis for the agreements that we signed today and others that will soon be concluded.

Again, our strategic relationship has ensured that at the multilateral level, we have been able to co-operate on the major global issues of the day and will continue to do so, affecting such important areas as the struggle against terrorism, peace in the Middle East, the reform of the United Nations, and others. This partnership is also reflected in our shared vision for the protection of the global environment in pursuit of the objective of sustainable development, as well as the pursuit of the goal of African renewal.

Indeed, the matters discussed at the July 2006 G8 Summit, which Your Excellency successfully hosted, which included energy security, health and education are critically important areas of the African Action Plan. In this regard, South Africa warmly welcomes Russia's support for the African Union's comprehensive continental programme, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, (NEPAD) and the concrete steps that your government has taken in this regard, especially in debt cancellation.

We have indeed been greatly honoured to host this first ever visit to our country by a President of the Russian Federation. Our people are truly delighted that you found time to come, accompanied by other important Russian government and business leaders. We hope that you will always consider this your second home.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of His Excellency, President Vladimir Putin, and to the ever-lasting friendship, co-operation and partnership between the peoples of Russia and South Africa. To good health and happiness!

Thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
5 September 2006


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