Notes following Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Media Centre Amphitheatre, Union Buildings, Tshwane, South Africa, 12 July 2006


Burundi

  • The Facilitator, Minister Charles Nqakula is currently engaging the Government of Burundi and the Paliphehutu-FNL to restart the stalled negotiations.
  • Negotiations stalled when the parties differed on the methodology to be used in finalising agreement on a comprehensive ceasefire.
  • The Paliphehutu-FNL is insisting that before signing the agreement the two parties must engage thoroughly on the causes and reasons for the conflict, focusing on the role of the army.
  • The fundamental position of the FNL is that agreement must be reached on dismantling the army and rebuilding a new integrated one, imparting on it new ethics and behaviour.
  • The mandate given by the regional leadership is to begin negotiations immediately on the implementation of a comprehensive ceasefire.
  • The Facilitator has now given the parties until Thursday 13 July 2006 to finalise preparations and to begin in earnest, immediate negotiations on the comprehensive ceasefire.

Côte d'Ivoire

  • A meeting was convened by the UN Secretary-General in Yamoussoukro on 5 July to discuss the implementation of the peace process in Côte d'Ivoire. The meeting was attended by:
  • President Olusegan Obasanjo
  • President Thabo Mbeki
  • The Foreign Minister of the Congo, Rodolphe Adada
  • The Foreign Minister of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
  • Representatives of President Blaise Compaaore of Burkina Faso and President Amadou Toumani of Mali.
  • On the Ivorian side, participants included:
  • President Laurent Gbagbo
  • Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny
  • Mr Guillaume Soro, Secretary-General of Forces Nouvelles
  • Mr Alassane Ouattara, President of the RDR
  • Mr Djedje Made, Secretary-General of the PDCI, representing President Bedie.
  • The participants reaffirmed their commitment to the Ivorian peace process and reaffirmed the key commitments made at Yamoussoukro on 28 February 2006:
  • That the media, and particularly the written press, is called upon to embrace the peace process and to refrain from printing articles that could jeopardize the process;
  • That political leaders should prevail on journalists who are close to them to join the peace process; and
  • That political leaders should create a conducive environment for the conduct of political activities, in keeping with the values of brotherhood and democracy.
  • The Ivorian parties recommitted themselves to do everything possible to accelerate the DDR process and the identification and electoral processes. In this context, the dismantling of militias, the redeployment of state administration, the nation-wide launch of the audiences foraines, and the deployment of the IEC regional and local commissions are to be in place by 31 July 2006.
  • In this regard, participants decided to create a Monitoring Committee for DDR, that would include, among others, representatives of the Impartial Forces, the Chiefs of Staff of the FANCI and FAFN, and the Prime Minister's office.
  • The participants strongly warned that those inciting violence and hatred would be liable for the imposition of targeted sanctions by the Security Council. The participants decided that a compulsory code of conduct should be established for members of the media that explicitly forbids inflammatory, extremist and threatening messages.
  • The participants urged the political actors in Côte d'Ivoire to develop confidence and dialogue among themselves and to foster unity and national reconciliation beyond elections. The parties reaffirmed that the roadmap, as well as earlier agreements signed by the main Ivorian political actions, including Pretoria, must be implemented without delay and without re-opening or re-interpreting them.
  • The participants welcomes the Secretary-General's intention to call a meeting in mid-September in the margins of the General Assembly to take stock of the situation and to make any further determinations as may be needed.
  • Regarding the 30 October 2006 election date - all efforts should be exerted to make it possible to hold elections by this time. However, should Ambassador Stoutman the High Representative for Elections, deem it impossible to hold the elections on this date due to logistical and technical reasons, then the Secretary-General's meeting in mid-September will be used to take the appropriate decision on the date on which elections can be held.

The Democratic Republic of Congo

  • All processes leading up to the elections are underway and we are pleased with the way in which things are proceeding.
  • The incidents of violence around the 5000 extra ballot papers in Kinshasa yesterday should not be used to retract from the overall preparations towards elections.

Middle East

  • Let me again touch on an increasingly dangerous and inflammatory situation - the Middle East. The conflict has now escalated to Lebanon further endangering regional peace and security.
  • I mentioned last week that the Human Rights Council had called for a special sitting to deal with this matter. The meeting decided to dispatch the Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, John Dugard, to undertake a fact-finding mission to the occupied territories.
  • In a resolution adopted by a vote of 29 in favour, 11 against and 5 abstentions, the Council demanded that Israel end it military occupations in the occupied Palestinian territory, expressed grave concern at the detrimental impact of the current Israeli military operation on the already deteriorating humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, urged Israel to immediately release the arrested Palestinian ministers, and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, respect the rules of international humanitarian law, to refrain from violence against the civilian population and to treat under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
  • In fact, the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories are deteriorating rapidly: the UN Humanitarian Agencies working in the occupied territories are alarmed by developments on the ground, which have seen innocent civilians, including children killed, brought increased misery to hundreds of thousands of people and which will wreak far-reaching harm on Palestinian society. There is an alarming situation in Gaza, with poverty rates at nearly 80% and unemployment at nearly 40%, and is likely to deteriorate rapidly, unless immediate and urgent action is taken.
  • Israel should stop its military actions immediately.
  • South Africa calls on the Palestinians to immediately and unconditionally release the Israeli soldier and to cease its Qassam rocket fire on Israeli territory.
  • We believe that a political solution is the only possible way of addressing this very serious crisis.

Terrorist attacks in India

  • Let me also address another issue of great concern: India yesterday experienced one of the worst terrorist attacks in its history.
  • Let me again reiterate South Africa's position on terrorism: we condemn terrorism of any form. Terrorism cannot be used to justify any cause. In fact, such acts only serve to undermine any genuine struggle the perpetrators may be facing.
  • We call on the international community to deal collectively with this scourge of terrorism.
  • In addition, we reiterate that the root causes of terrorism must be addressed.
  • These acts have only served to further inflame tensions in the region but we are pleased that both the governments of India and Pakistan have condemned these acts and that the two groups thought to have been responsible have denounced these acts as well.
  • We call on all parties - the Indians and Pakistani's to fast-track a solution to the dispute over Kashmir.

President Mbeki's participation in the G-8 Summit

  • President Thabo Mbeki will participate in the Group of 8 (G-8) Summit in St Petersburg, Russian Federation scheduled from Sunday - Monday, 16-17 July 2006.
  • We have said before that President Thabo Mbeki, together with the Presidents of India, Brazil, Mexico, and China have been invited to the G-8 Summit as Strategic Outreach Partners and will participate in a round table discussion on Monday, 17 July 2006.
  • The Chairperson of the African Union President Denis Sassou Nguesso and Khazakstan in its capacity as Chair of the Commonwealth of Independent States have also been invited to participate in the Outreach segment of the Summit.
  • The Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and representatives of the various international organizations including the World Bank, UNESCO, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization and the International Energy Agency are also expected to participate in the 2006 Outreach Meeting.
  • The 2006 G-8 Summit, under Russia's chairpersonship, will for the first time integrate the African agenda into all G-8 deliberations, ie. not just focus on Africa in aspects involving Africa or in the outreach segment. The statement issued on conclusion of the Summit will also address the aspects involving Africa.
  • The 2006 G-8 Outreach Segment is expected to look at:
  • International Energy Security;
  • Education; and
  • Infectious diseases.

    I am pleased to say that South Africa has participated in all preparatory ministerial meetings.
  • In addition discussions will also focus on:
  • International trade: as you know the World Trade Organisation Talks have failed hopelessly. We hope that the G-8 will be able to do what no other forum has been able to do and salvage the process in terms of concessions by the developed countries towards the developing ones. Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank, has called on the G-8 to make a greater commitment towards the implementation of its decisions on Africa. He has also indicated that the United States may be willing to consider improving its positions on its subsidies to the farmers.
  • Non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction with regard to Iran and North Korea
  • Combating of international terrorism
  • A presentation on the status of commitments towards Africa by Prime Minister Blair - this will look specifically at an evaluation of the progress made towards commitments made by the G-8 towards Africa.
  • Participants in the Round Table discussions are also expected to look at these issues and their impact on African issues.
  • A major meeting on the Africa Action Plan Implementation was held in Maputo in May this year. The meeting was attended by G-8-Africa Personal Representatives, OECD members as well as the NEPAD Steering committee. This meeting identified issues that must be dealt with in Russia:
  • Development of Continental Infrastructure;
  • Agriculture and Food Security; and
  • HIV and Aids.

It was also decided that a comprehensive database of all G-8 commitments on Africa would be developed so as to effect an implementation monitoring tool across all sectors of the G-8 Bilateral, Regional and Continental commitments since Kananaskis.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also appointed an Africa Progress Panel to monitor delivery of G-8 Gleneagles African Commitments and to ensure poverty alleviation. This Panel will be led by Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and will be funded by Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft.


Questions and answers

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, can you please respond to the call by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee that South Africa declare a trade boycott towards Israel and the South African envoy be recalled? It is also felt that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not embracing the two-state solution and that South Africa is not doing enough considering the response of the international community when South Africa found itself in a similar position.

Answer: Let me begin by saying these are calls by NGOs, political parties and trade unions. We as government, cannot take symbolic decisions. We must consistently engage with situations like we have done in the Middle East.

These parties have not made preparations before making such statements or calling for such action. We cannot therefore take them very seriously. What should be done is that they should call for a meeting with government and the ANC so that we can seriously discuss such matters.

No one is preventing these parties from effecting a trade embargo against Israel but they have never done this.

Regarding our diplomatic relations with Israel: we believe that diplomatic relations ensures that there can be dialogue between parties.

South Africa is doing as much as it can - it engages on the situation through the NAM Troika, we are a member of the NAM Committee on Palestine, we engage fully through the UN structures on this matter, we are one of the few countries that made representation to the International Court of Justice on the illegality of the wall being constructed through the occupied territories by Israel.

The South African government will be pleased to have discussions with those calling for these actions.

Regarding the commitment of the Israeli leadership to the two-state solution - we believe that a two-state solution is imperative otherwise all agreements - the Oslo Agreement, the Roadmap, the Arab Plan - will be null and void.

A two-state solution is the only solution for a peaceful future for both peoples - we believe there must be discussions by both parties for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel within secure borders.

Question: Deputy Minister, earlier in your brief you said the WTO talks had failed but later you seem to be more optimistic. What impact do you think the G-8 can make on this matter seeing that concessions from the developed countries towards developing ones is a major obstacle at the moment?

Answer: Regarding the WTO, the Department of Trade and Industry is the main line function executing department and they should do a more thorough briefing on the matter.

But it is clear that the developed countries must make greater concessions towards the developing countries. There seems to be some indication that compromises from the United States may be forthcoming.

The last meeting in Geneva (the Mini Ministerial meeting) did not succeed. It is inconceivable that such a matter should not be taken to a meeting of the world's most powerful countries.

I earlier referred to a statement by the President of the World Bank where he referred to concessions on agricultural subsidies from the US.

The position of the developing countries in this regard is quite clear. But I believe the matter has now been turned upside down. The Doha Round was about the development agenda - not about the developing countries making concessions to the developed ones in respect of market liberalisation.

I hope that the developed countries will now behave with some good sense.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, you yesterday met with your counterpart from North Korea. A report appeared today that the North Koreans may have discussed the acquisition of uranium from the DRC when they were there. Was this matter discussed?

Answer: I did not discuss this matter with my counterpart - the acquisition of uranium from the DRC was not discussed. We rather discussed the forthcoming elections in the DRC.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, you earlier said the new deadline in the Burundi Peace Process is on 13 July 2006. Could you please elaborate?

Answer: We have already passed the previous deadline. We cannot find ourselves in an endless situation where the regional leadership and the Facilitator spend much time on trying to finalise what has already been agreed to. We believe that the Burundians have moved forward quite decisively. We now hope that common sense will prevail and the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement will be finalised.

Should this not happen, then the Chair and Vice-Chair, Uganda and Tanzania must suggest the way forward in the process.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, can you please comment on allegations by some parties in the DRC that South Africa is biased?

Answer: South Africa, at a governmental and NGO level, is working extensively towards assisting the government of DRC hold its first elections since the death of Lumumba.

The government has indicated all its need to us and we have tried to assist.

Not once has there been any mention of a bias on our part.

The unrest yesterday came as a result of the printing of an extra 5000 ballot papers - in any election, extra ballot papers must be printed, and I assume these are being done under supervision.

Observer teams from the EU, SADC, UN, AU, and United States through government and NGOs will be in place to observe these elections.

I do not give much credibility to comments by those who have not been fully engaged in the process but now try to present obstacles.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, is the deadline of 13 July 2006 intended as an ultimatum to the Paliphehutu-FNL? And what is your comment regarding increased militia activity in the DRC?

Answer: Tanzania has been and continues to be fully engaged with the matter of Burundi. It is now important that we come to conclusion following many weeks of discussion. We must also present a report to the AU on the outcomes of this process. Although the Paliphehutu-FNL has joined the process the matter has not been finalised and it must not become a situation where the process is being held to ransom.

Regarding the DRC - the question of security, especially in the East is a matter of concern. In this regard, MONUC has already begun to take some steps. The EU has also deployed its forces, although they will mainly be a reactive force. Security is not bad throughout the country and based on our assessment, security in the country is relatively in hand. We would not have deployed so many of our own observers if we had serious concerns about their welfare.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Tshwane
0001

12 July 2006

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