Press Comments made by South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Iceland Foreign Minister Valgerdur Sverrisdottir, Pretoria 27 February 2007

Minister Dlamini Zuma

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome my colleague from Iceland, Minister Sverrisdottir whom I have had the honour and privilege of knowing for some time and we are very happy to welcome her here to South Africa since this is her first visit to South Africa and indeed to Africa. She has also just visited Uganda. We hope her stay and that of her delegation in South Africa will be a very fruitful one.

We also welcome the fact that Iceland has just opened its Embassy in South Africa. That is a very welcome development.

We have had very constructive discussions with the Minister on a whole range of issues - our own bilateral relations at a political level which are very good. Our historical relations are also very good. During the apartheid days Iceland was one of the countries that supported our struggle. We are now looking at improving our co-operation in terms of business and other areas. The Minister is here with a big business delegation.

We also spoke about our regions particularly the African continent and various areas of co-operation in conflict resolution.

We also spoke about South Africa itself - what we are doing.

Iceland is a small country with big achievements. It has moved from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to being amongst the richest with a very high standard of living.

There is much that South Africa can learn from Iceland.

I will now allow the Minister to provide a few more details on what was discussed but we have had very wide-ranging fruitful discussions including Iceland's co-operation with other countries in Africa.

Minister Sverrisdottir

I am very happy to be here in South Africa and have the opportunity to witness this country's natural beauty.

Minister Dlamini Zuma and myself have had very fruitful discussions on a number of issues which concern our countries.

We have met twice before - in 2003 when Minister Dlamini Zuma visited Iceland and again in 2006 on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly. I hope we will meet again in Oslo, Norway next month.

I started my visit in Uganda and as the Minister has said, this is my first visit to Africa. Our Development Aid Agency has been operating in Uganda since 2001. It was very rewarding to see for myself the various projects that Iceland is supporting in Uganda.

The highlight of my visit to South Africa was the opening of our Embassy in Pretoria last night. I really hope this Embassy will serve to strengthen the ties between our countries.

In my visit to both Uganda and South Africa, I have been very impressed by the women I have met. I feel that the power of Africa lies within its women. I want to add that I am here today with an all-women delegation.

Questions and answers

Question: Minister Sverrisdottir, I have noticed that the balance of trade is in South Africa's favour and that trade volumes between both countries are very small. Does this concern you? I also notice that 99% of Iceland's energy is green, renewable energy - do you foresee any areas of co-operation between South Africa and Iceland in this regard?

Answer (Minister Sverrisdottir) I am a bit concerned about the trade imbalance. I want this to be addressed and I believe this can be done through the recently concluded SACU-EFTA agreement. Iceland has already ratified this agreement although other countries have not. I hope they will complete the process very soon so that we can begin implementing this agreement.

Regarding the energy in Iceland - it is true that we only produce green and renewable energy - hydro and geo-thermal energy. We have an abundance of resources. We also use geo-thermal energy to heat our homes and water. As you know, 90% of our homes must be heated. We are in a very special situation regarding the production of energy.

I am very sorry to not know if South Africa has geo-thermal sources of energy. If there are, we could off course, co-operate in using this energy.

We have a lot of expertise and specialists in this regard. We have been co-operating with many countries in this regard, even in Africa. We have a project in the west of Uganda in this regard.

We have much expertise in this area and seek co-operation with other countries.

(Minister Dlamini Zuma) We encourage everybody in SACU and other countries to ratify the SACU-EFTA Agreement so that indeed, as Minister has said, it will help to facilitate free trade between our countries.

We also hope that the business delegation that is accompanying Minister Sverrisdottir will meet with their relevant contacts and work towards narrowing the trade gap.

In terms of geo-thermal resources - we do have some although I am not certain how much is needed to use as is done in Iceland. We do have, in some of the provinces, geo-thermal resources - some hot springs which are not used. Perhaps we could look at this to determine whether we can have co-operation or not.

Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, neither of you has mentioned Iceland's ambitions to join the United Nations Security Council. I wanted to know your views on this and how Iceland could contribute to the work of the Council.

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) We did speak about this matter although we did not mention it in our opening remarks.

South Africa is quite supportive of Iceland's intention. South Africa, is now, for the first time in the Security Council. We will be quite happy to support Iceland.

We hope that Iceland will be able to support some of the African issues in the Security Council. As you know, 60% of the work of the Security Council is about Africa. We would like Iceland to be more familiar with African issues and that is why is spent quite some time on this area.

Question Minister Sverridottir, what is Iceland's view on global warming?

Answer We are very concerned about this matter in Iceland. As you know, the effects of this will be felt more keenly in the North pole than elsewhere.

We have ratified the Kyoto Agreement. We have received a special mention in the Agreement because of the use of green, renewable energy that is used in Iceland. As I have already mentioned, this is the only energy Iceland produces.

Iceland wants to co-operate with any country that seeks assistance in this regard.

The period 2012 - 2016 will be very important. We hope that all countries will participate because it is not enough that only 25% of the countries that produce emissions have ratified the agreement. We must have countries like the United States, India and other big countries implement this agreement.

This will be the only way to ensure success.

Question Minister Sverridottir, in which areas is Iceland seeking in increase Foreign Direct Investment in South Africa?

Answer It is not the duty of governments to increase foreign direct investment in countries. It is the responsibility of governments to create the frameworks in which such investments can occur. In this regard, we have finalized the SACU-EFTA Agreement.

We also mentioned the civil air traffic agreement which I think we will be very happy to finalise as well as a bilateral investment agreement which we do not have today.

These are the possibilities in which governments can co-operate to encourage business people to invest in other countries

(Minister Dlamini Zuma) It is the responsibility of governments to create the environment in which businesses will be happy to invest. We are going to negotiate and agreement on the Protection of Investments and an Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation. We will also discuss the Aviation Agreement.

That the Minister is accompanied by a business delegation to South Africa indicates that there is interest from Iceland to conduct business activities in South Africa.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

27 February 2007

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