Notes following briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Media Centre, Amphitheatre, Union Buildings, Wednesday 4 April 2007

ZIMBABWE

As I said last week, the Chairman of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete convened meetings of the SADC Double Troika and an Extraordinary SADC Summit in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania 28-29 March 2007.

COMMUNIQUE: 2007 EXTRA-ORDINARY SADC SUMMIT OF HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT, 28TH - 29TH MARCH 2007 DAR-ES-SALAAM

The Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of SADC met in Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania on 29 March 2007 to discuss the political, economic and security situation in the region, with special focus on the situations in Lesotho, DRC and Zimbabwe.

The meeting was chaired by his Excellency President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit was attended by following Heads of State and Government and Government representatives:

DRC

HE President Joseph Kabila

Kingdom of Lesotho

Right Honourable Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili
MalawiHE President Bingu wa Muthrika

Mozambique

HE President Armando Emilio Guebuza

Namibia

HE President Hifikepunye Pohamba

South Africa

HE President Thabo Mbeki

Kingdom of Swaziland

Right Honourable Prime Minister Themba Dlamini
United Republic of TanzaniaHE President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete
ZambiaHE President Levy P Mwanawasa

Zimbabwe

HE President Robert G Mugabe

Botswana

HE Vice-President honourable Honourable Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama lan Khama
AngolaHonourable Joao Bernando Miranda Minister of External Relations

Madagascar

HE Bruno Ranarivelo Ambassador to Mauritius

Mauritius

HE Mahomed dossa High Commissioner to South Africa

ON THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN LESOTHO

The Extra-Ordinary Summit recalled that the Kingdom of Lesotho recently held successful, peaceful and democratic elections.

The extra-Ordinary Summit noted and appreciated a briefing by the Right Honourable Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and a report form the Executive Secretary arising out of the meeting of the Ministerial Double Troika on post electoral developments in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit decided to send a SADC delegation at Ministerial level to go and assess the situation as requested by the political parties.

ON THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE DRC

The Extra-Ordinary Summit recalled that SADC took an active part in ensuring the holding of free, fair and democratic elections in the DRC and congratulated the Government and people of the DRC for the successful outcome.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit noted and appreciated the briefing by HE President Joseph Kabila on the current political situation in the DRC.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit resolved to render unconditional support to the government of the DRC in its quest to restore law and order maintaining peace and stability and spearheading national reconstruction.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit reaffirmed the sovereign rights of the DRC to have a single national army and urged all armed groups to integrate into the national army or to be demobilised.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit reiterated that the rule of law in the DRC must be observed and respected by all parties in conformity with accepted international convention.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit expressed concern and the loss of life and urged all parties to respect the sanctity on human lives and the principles of human rights.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit expressed its support to the ongoing efforts for the economic reconstruction of the DRC.

POLITICAL SITUATION IN ZIMBABWE

The Extra-Ordinary Summit noted and appreciated the briefing by His Excellency President Robert G Mugabe on the current political developments in Zimbabwe.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit recalled that free, fair and democratic presidential elections were held in 2002 in Zimbabwe.

The Extra Ordinary Summit reaffirmed its solidarity with the government and people of Zimbabwe.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit mandated His Excellency President Thabo Mbeki to continue to facilitate dialogue between the opposition and the government and report back to the troika on progress.

The Extra ordinary summit also encouraged enhanced diplomatic contacts which will assist with the resolution of the situation in Zimbabwe.

The Extra Ordinary Summit mandated the SADC Executive Secretary to undertake a study on the economic situation in Zimbabwe and propose measures on how SADC can assist Zimbabwe recover economically.

The Extra-Ordinary summit reiterated the appeal to Britain to honour its compensation obligations with regards to land reform made at the Lancaster House.

The Extra Ordinary Summit appealed for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Zanu-PF had its central committee meeting on Friday 30 March 2007

The following decisions were taken at this meeting:

· President Mugabe will be the Zanu- PF's presidential candidate for the 2008 presidential election.

· Parliamentary elections will be held concurrently with the presidential election. There is no need for a constitutional amendment as the President is allowed, according to the current constitution, to bring parliamentary elections forward.

· The Presidential term will be reduced from six to five years and this will necessitate a constitutional amendment.

· Another important amendment pertains to a decision to change the process to find a successor to the incumbent President. Previously the constitution stated that presidential elections should be held within 90 days of the retirement, death, or resignation of the President. The Central Committee decided that should the incumbent President resign, die or be not capable of continuing with the duties of President, Parliament will sit as an electoral college and elect a new President.

· Local government elections will also be held in 2008, which will mean that local government elections will be held every five instead of every four years.

· The elections for the Senate will be scrapped and senators will now be chosen on the basis of proportional representation. In other word the number of votes garnered by a party in the elections for the House of Assembly would be allocated on a proportional basis to decide on the number of representatives in the Senate. During the 2005 Senatorial elections, senators were elected according to constituencies specifically demarcated for this purpose.

· The number of seats in the House of Assembly will be increased from 150 to 210 while seats in the Senate will go up from 66 to 84. It is not clear how this will impact on President Mugabe's presidential prerogative to nominate some MP's and senators. Until now President Mugabe could nominate 20 parliamentarians to the House of Assembly. Of the 66 members of the Senate, President Mugabe nominated six and ten senators came from the ranks of the traditional leaders - in effect another ten pro-government senators.

The Central Committee decisions demand that SADC and the international community have to intensify efforts to ensure that the necessary climate and conditions are created to ensure free and fair elections. This, inter alia, will have to deal with concerns about certain legislation, etc.

To ensure that the necessary climate is created, all Zimbabweans must act with restraint and within the rule of law. Decisive action must be taken against those that are carrying out sabotage activities. Zimbabweans must continue to respect the independence and integrity of the justice system.

This will create a more favourable climate for President Mbeki to carry out SADC's mandate to continue to facilitate dialogue between the government and the opposition (including political parties and other sectors of civil society.)

This will assist the SADC initiative to create conditions for free and fair elections.

The Summit also "encouraged enhanced diplomatic contacts" which will assist with the resolution of the situation in Zimbabwe, inter alia, Summit appealed for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Given the serious economic situation the SADC Summit mandated the Executive Secretary to undertake a study on the economic situation in Zimbabwe and propose measures on how SADC can assist Zimbabwe recover economically.

In this context, SADC reiterated its appeal to the United Kingdom to honour the Lancaster House compensations agreement with regard to land reform.

As President Mbeki indicated in his interview to the Financial Times, "We had already been in contact with both the opposition and ZANU-PF. Last week Friday the two secretaries general of the two factions of the MDC [the opposition Movement for Democratic Change] came and had a long discussion with our people about their view about what needs to happen. At the end of that discussion they said they would then go back to Harare and give us a document which would reflect the official view, the combined view of both factions of the MDC which would then open the way for us to interact with ZANU-PF. This was before the Dar as Salaam (SADC) summit. So they are in the process of finalizing that document. And when it is finalised we will interact with ZANU-PF.

President Mbeki also yesterday announced that there will be another meeting between the two Secretaries-General of the MDC and the South African delegation.

Given that there has been movement with regard to the situation in Zimbabwe, the principal challenge facing all Zimbabweans is what should be done between now and the elections (possible in March 2008) to create a climate that will be truly free and fair elections for an outcome that will not be contested by anybody.

As the President also said, "It is the view of the region that the only way to deal with these problems and the only way to achieve results, is if we encourage the Zimbabwean political parties to engage with one another… whether this succeeds or not it is up to the Zimbabwe leadership.. It is they who will agree about the future of Zimbabwe, so to the extent that they don't agree, and therefore the conflict continues, maybe violence escalates which the region is very much against, sure that may be damaging but what can you do about it except to say we don't like this….We have intervened because we don't like it and we think this is the route to go. But none of us in the region has any power to force the Zimbabweans to agree.

It is a daunting challenge for the mediation and the region.

However, as President Mbeki said that while we are concerned about the negative effects of the crisis in Zimbabwe on the region, we would not ever support any proposition about regime change. So that is not an option for us, whatever other people might think in the rest of the world. The only option we have is... to make sure that the Zimbabwe political leadership agrees on the steps that it needs to take the country out of its problems. That was the only point made with regard to that.

What is clear is that SADC had extensive discussions on the three areas of concern to the region. It was made clear that any negativity in any of the three areas would have serious implications for us as a region so it was decided that we would, as the region, take steps to ensure these issues are not exacerbated.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

We remain concerned about the developments in the DRC.

Mr Bemba remains at the compound of the SA Embassy in Kinshasa, while he still awaits the approval of his departure from the Congolese authorities. The date for his departure therefore remains unknown at this stage.

UN Security Council Presidential Statement on the situation in the DRC
"The Security Council deplores the violence which occurred from 22 to 25 March in Kinshasa between Congolese security forces and the security guards of Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba. It expresses its grave concern at the loss of lives, in particular of civilians, and urges all parties to respect the sanctity of human life and the principles of human rights. It also expresses its regret at the destruction and pillaging, including of some diplomatic missions, which took place during the clashes.

"The Security Council encourages the Congolese authorities and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to undertake the necessary investigations into these events."The Security Council emphasizes the legitimacy of the new democratically elected institutions and the need for these institutions to ensure the protection of the population. At the same time, it underlines the importance of these institutions operating with respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law, and avoiding any unnecessary or disproportionate use of force.

"The Security Council regrets the use of violence, instead of dialogue, to resolve disputes, and urges all Congolese stakeholders to pursue negotiated solutions to their differences with respect for the constitutional framework and the law. It calls on the Government to respect the space and role conferred on parties by the Constitution with a view to ensuring their effective participation in the national political debate, and encourages all parties to remain committed to the political process.

"The Security Council expresses its full support for the efforts of MONUC to re-establish dialogue between the Government and opposition parties and to contribute to the protection of the civilian population.

Other International role players' involvement

The new European Union Special representative for the Great Lakes Mr Roeland van de Geer had indicated that the EU through Mr Louis Michel were interested to get involved in the Bemba case by "harmonising" the South African and EU's view on the way forward regarding the DRC.

SADC Recommendations

The Extra-Ordinary Summit recalled that SADC took an active part in ensuring the holding of free, fair and democratic elections in the DRC and congratulated the Government and people of the DRC for the successful outcome.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit noted and appreciated the briefing by HE President Joseph Kabila on the current political situation in the DRC.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit resolved to render unconditional support to the government of the DRC in its quest to restore law and order maintaining peace and stability and spearheading national reconstruction.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit reaffirmed the sovereign rights of the DRC to have a single national army and urged all armed groups to integrate into the national army or to be demobilised.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit reiterated that the rule of law in the DRC must be observed and respected by all parties in conformity with accepted international convention.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit expressed concern and the loss of life and urged all parties to respect the sanctity on human lives and the principles of human rights.

The Extra-Ordinary Summit expressed its support to the ongoing efforts for the economic reconstruction of the DRC.

BURUNDI

On 26 March 2007, the Office of the Facilitator announced that the JVMM had been suspended as a result of the PALIPHEHUTU-FNL persistently raising issues which were, in the opinion of the Facilitation, outside the ambit of their mandate. It would appear that the PALIPHEHUTU-FNL is reverting to a pre-Dar es Salaam stance, for instance its statement that "it was agreed in the ceasefire deal that … all government troops will have to quit zones where there are FNL fighters, but this was not respected". Another issue is the future role of the PALIPHEHUTU-FNL leadership in Burundian political life. The former rebel movement is of the opinion that it should be absorbed without ever having been mandated to do so by popular elections, which the government finds hard to reconcile with. It argues that PALIPHEHUTU-FNL is raising issues that fall outside of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement and is 'sabotaging the Agreement'. The JVMM has been suspended four times since its inception, each time as result of objections or concerns raised by the PALIPHEHUTU-FNL. Other parties, notably FRODEBU (Front for Democracy in Burundi) and the MRC (Movement for the Rehabilitation of Citzens), have expressed disappointment at the suspension of the JVMM and have asked parties to make concessions for the sake of Burundi.

The South African government urges the Paliphehutu-FNL to adhere to the agreements reached in Dar-es-Salaam and to refrain from raising issues outside the mandate of the Facilitator.

SUDAN

Comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on situation in Sudan

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on conclusion of visit to Saudi Arabia where he held discussions with Sudanese President El-Bashir on the margins of the Arab League Summit said he was pleased by the commitment of Arab leaders to help resolve the Darfur situation.

On the way forward he said, "I am going to dispatch DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] experts to Addis Ababa to discuss with the African Union, the implementation of the agreement reached between me and President Omar el-Bashir of Sudan and Alpha Oumar Konaré, the Chairman of the African Union.

I hope that I will be able to dispatch experts to Addis Ababa to discuss the Darfur heavy support package issue, and I am going to make an informal report to the Security Council on 5 April.

I would like to inform you that I am going to convene a high-level consultation to discuss the Darfur situation in New York with the Chairman of the African Union, Mr. Konare. He is going to visit New York on 16-17 April. On those two days I am going to engage in extensive, in-depth consultation with the African Union to make further progress on this matter, based upon the report of the technical expert-level consultation in Addis Ababa. We will continue to discuss what further measures will have to be taken to make progress."

"On the future course of actions by the United Nations, I would hope that I would first of all be able to engage in technical-level consultation; at the same time the political dialogue process should continue. We have achieved some improvement and results through this political dialogue. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. John Holmes, visited Darfur, and made good progress in humanitarian assistance. I need to have some time to engage in political dialogue, as well as on this detailed consultation with the Sudanese government.

Comments by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes

John Holmes, the UN's top humanitarian official, while on a visit to a refugee camp near the town of El-Fasher in Darfur on Sunday, said: "This humanitarian effort is fragile ... If the situation deteriorates, it could collapse."

He said problems such as obstruction from Sudan's government and insecurity on the ground have created an environment where "morale is fragile" and could push aid workers to pull out.

"The risk is high," he said. "It is not imminent, but if things deteriorate, people may not want to maintain their efforts."

Es Sallam, the refugee camp visited by Holmes and where some 45,000 people have taken refuge from the region's spiraling violence, is one of three camps near El Fasher.

Holmes said people in the camp were not starving and health conditions seemed decent.

But the camp is over spilling with people and aid workers are currently negotiating space for a fourth camp to meet the incoming flow of refugees.

Killing of African Union Peacekeepers

Position of South African government

The South African government unequivocally condemns the killing of the five African Union Peacekeepers.

This is a serious violation of international law and all relevant resolutions of the Security Council.

We demand that those responsible for this criminal act must be arrested and charged.

Comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

"I am very sorry for the death of African Union peacekeepers. I am not aware of who was behind it, but I would like to strongly deplore such killings against peacekeepers in Africa. That really illustrates the necessity and urgency of dispatching hybrid peacekeepers to Darfur. That is what I am going to work on.

Statement by African Union Mission in Sudan

The African Union (AU) has launched an investigation into the killing of five of its peacekeepers by unidentified assailants in Sudan's western region of Darfur, saying attacks against its troops were increasing.


"It was a heinous crime against peacekeepers," Noureddine Mezni, spokesman for the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS), told IRIN on Monday.


"We are very concerned over the increasing number of attacks against our personnel and we will not tolerate it," said Mezni. The attack happened about 24 hours after a helicopter carrying AMIS's deputy commander and other officers was shot at in the Kurni area of Western Darfur. Nobody was hurt in the incident.


Comment by SA Government

These killings underscore the urgency of strengthening the AU Mission in Sudan by implementing the AU and UN Security Council resolution.

It is a matter of concern that despite comments by the Secretary-General some countries continue to speak of more sanctions against Sudan. The objective of Africa and the international community should now be to resolve the different interpretations of the AU and UN resolutions and implement the heavy support package and to not create any further obstacles.

President Mbeki will visit Sudan next week where he will have discussions with President Omar el-Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kirr on issues of the comprehensive peace agreement and the implementation of the AU-UN resolutions on the strengthening and blue-hatting of the AU forces in Darfur.

We do hope that matter can be resolved quite urgently because as the AU spokesperson has warned it will become increasingly difficult for the AU to sustain its presence in Darfur.

SOMALIA

Violence is continuing unabated in Somalia with the UN saying 47 000 Somalis have fled Mogadishu in the past 10 days, making a total of 96 000 since February.

South Africa is very concerned about the increasing violence that has resulted in over 350 deaths.

It is important that the Somali government convenes the national reconciliation congress, scheduled for April 16th and we hope all necessary preparations will be completed to enable this to happen.

South Africa urges all parties to the conflict to respect the ceasefire that has been in place since Sunday, to permanently end hostilities and to conclude an unconditional ceasefire. A ceasefire is the prerequisite for bringing the required humanitarian assistance to the affected population, which is now so urgently needed.

It is quite clear that if the situation is not resolved we will reach proportions of conflict in excess of what was witnessed 15 years ago.

The conflict can only be solved through dialogue across the political and civil society spectrum.

The South African government remains committed to support such dialogue.

High Commissioner urges protection of civilians in Mogadishu (3 April 2007)

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is deeply concerned over the high number of civilian deaths and injuries caused by recent hostilities in Mogadishu, Somalia, her spokesman told reporters this morning. The casualties are reportedly the result of indiscriminate attacks and aerial bombardments in populated areas.


The High Commissioner also condemns the repeated cases of desecration of bodies witnessed in recent days, the spokesman said. As a tense calm prevails over the city, there is a worry that civilians will again bear the brunt of fighting if the ceasefire in place since Sunday does not hold. The High Commissioner urges the parties to respect international humanitarian law and reminds them of their duty to protect the human rights of civilians at all times. This includes granting civilians safe passage and allowing humanitarian aid to reach those who have been affected.


The High Commissioner also condemns the repeated cases of desecration of bodies witnessed in recent days, the spokesman continued. As a tense calm prevails over the city, there is a worry that civilians will again bear the brunt of fighting if the ceasefire in place since Sunday does not hold. The High Commissioner urges the parties to respect international humanitarian law and reminds them of their duty to protect the human rights of civilians at all times. This includes granting civilians safe passage and allowing humanitarian aid to reach those who have been affected.

CÔTE D'IVORE

Developments which I reported last week have been supported by the AU Peace and Security Council and UN Security Council through a Presidential statement.

We are hopeful that this matter can be resolved sooner rather than later.

COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE 74th MEETING OF THE PEACE AND SECURITY COUNCIL OF THE AFRICAN UNION ON THE SITUATION IN CÔTE D'IVOIRE

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union, at its 74th meeting held on 29 March 2007, adopted the following decision on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire:

Council,

1. Recalls its Communiqué PSC/PR/Comm.2 (LXXIII) adopted on 19 March 2007 in which it decided, among other things, to fully endorse the Ouagadougou Political Agreement of 4 March 2007;

2. Welcomes the signing, on 26 March 2007, of the Additional Agreement between President Laurent Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro, Secretary-General of the Force Nouvelles, under the aegis of President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, Current Chairperson of ECOWAS, through which the signatory parties have decided to designate Guillaume Soro as the new Prime Minister. Council further reiterates its appreciation of the efforts being deployed by President Blaise Compaoré to facilitate the successful outcome of the peace and reconciliation process in Cote d'Ivoire;

3. Decides to endorse the Additional Agreement as well as the designation of Guillaume Soro as Prime Minister;

4. Commends the outgoing Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny for his tireless efforts aimed at facilitating the successful outcome of the peace and reconciliation process in Cote d'Ivoire;

5. Takes note of the Presidential Statement on Côte d'Ivoire adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 28 March 2007, whereby the Council, taking note of the recommendations of ECOWAS and of the AU, endorsed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, took note of the parties' agreement on the required institutional arrangements, and expressed its support to the appointment of Guillaume Soro as Prime Minister;

6. Invites the United Nations Security Council to endorse this decision and to take all necessary measures, including the adoption of a new resolution, to help the Ivorian parties keep the momentum generated by the Ouagadougou Political Agreement and the Additional Agreement to enable them to successfully conclude the peace and reconciliation process in Côte d'Ivoire, which should lead on to free, open, transparent and democratic elections;

7. Decides to remain seized of the matter.


MIDDLE EAST

Declaration by Arab League Leaders at the 19th Arab League Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 28-29 March 2007

We, leaders of the Arab countries, convened in the nineteenth round of the Arab League Council at the level of summit in Riyadh capital of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 28- 29 March 2007, denounce all forms of extremism and discrimination, and seeking to promote the Arabic identity and consolidate its cultural and civilization constituents and pursuing its open humanitarian mission in view of the challenges and dangers faced by the nation threatening to reshape the situation in the region, fade away the Arab identity and undermine the ties among us

We hereby declare our intention to:

Work earnestly to fortify the Arab identity, support its constituents and anchors, consolidate the association to it in the hearts and minds of the children and the youth on the grounds that Arabism is not a racial discrimination concept but a unified cultural identity whereby the Arabic language plays the role of expressing it and safeguarding Arabic heritage and represents a mutual cultural framework based on the spiritual, moral and humanitarian values enriched by plurality and diversity and openness to other human civilizations and keeping abreast with the fast-paced scientific and technological developments without melting or breaking into pieces or losing distinction, therefore we decide:

· To spread the culture of moderateness, tolerance, dialogue and openness and reject all forms of terrorism, extremism and extravagance and all isolative discriminative tendencies, feud, hatred, distortion campaigns, attempts to question our human values or to tamper with our religious convictions, and warning against using faith plurality and sectarianism for political objectives aiming to divide the Nation and divide its countries and peoples and to ignite sedition and destructive civil conflicts.

· To promote effective Arab solidarity which contains crises and solves conflicts among the member states in pacific means in framework of activating the Arab Council of Peace and Security which was approved by the previous Arab Summits, and to sustain dialogue with the regional neighboring countries based on certain unified Arab stances and to revive institutions for the protection of the collective Arab security as stipulated by the Arab Pacts, and to seek to meet the Arab defensive and security needs.

· To confirm the option of the fair and comprehensive peace being as strategic option for the Arab Nation and to confirm the Arab Peace Initiative which sets up the correct path for reaching to a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the principles of legal legitimacy and international resolutions and the principles of land for peace.

· To confirm the significance of making the region free from all weapons of WMD away from the double standards and selectiveness, warning against launching dangerous and destructive nuclear arming race in the region and confirming the rights of all countries to possess peaceful nuclear power in accordance with the international agencies and the inspection and monitoring system associated with them.

It is clear that there is a growing feeling in the Arab world that the Arabs must be united in dealing with their cultural identities and indeed deal with the situation that is exploding all around them.

Reactions by Arab Leaders

King Abdullah II:

"Peace between Arab states and Israel cannot be reached unless Israel deals positively and seriously with the Arab initiative," he said in a speech to the gathering. "That is the real challenge for the leaders of the region and the world, especially the United States." "Israel must choose between two options: to live in a cycle of constant war and increasing hatred or to accept the option of peace and co-existence," Abdullah said.

Amr Moussa:

Arab League Secretary-General criticized Israel's stance, saying it is demanding Arabs naturalize relations with it before it makes any concessions. But he said Arabs were putting their hopes in the peace plan because of the new U.S. determination to make progress. Further stating that "The Arab world is in a state of agitation,".

The South African government welcomes the comments by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on conclusion of visit to the Middle East

"I was able to witness at first hand, and also could have very constructive, useful constructive exchanges of views with many leaders in the Middle East countries."

"As you may know, with the formation of a National Unity Government in Palestine, the active diplomatic initiatives are on the way: Arab peace initiatives, Arab leaders who are determined to visit this issue again as a foundation for establishing a good relationship and peace between Israel and Arab countries, and particularly between Israel and the Palestinian authorities."

"I know they (Palestinian Unity Government) are fully aware of the expectations and principles of the international community. Realistically speaking, again, I thought from my meeting with the Foreign Minister of Palestine, and the National Unity Government, that it may take time for them to make their own positions coordinated among themselves. Therefore I would hope that while the international community encouraged them to change their positions and perform well in meeting the expectations of the international community, we would also hope to be a little bit patient on this matter.

Comment by South African government

The South African government urges the international community to have unconditional dialogue with the Palestinian Unity Government and to lift all sanctions against the Palestinian government.

We urge Israel to seize the opportunity and begin serious negotiations on the basis of the 2002 Arab Plan

IRAN

As you know, we voted in support of the UN Resolution on Iran and as we were trying to understand the consequences of this resolution, the already volatile situation was seriously exacerbated by the arrests and detention of the 15 British sailors.

Statement by Prime Minister Tony Blair (3 April 2007)

"I've read the transcripts of the interview [head of the Supreme National Security Council] Ali Larijani gave and that seems to offer some prospect but the most important thing is to get these people back."

"All the way through this we've really had two tracks on this; one is to make sure Iran understands that the pressure is there available to us if this thing has to be hard and tough and long."

"On the other hand, to say all the way through we're not looking for confrontation over this and actually the most important thing is to get the people back safe and sound and if they want to resolve this in a diplomatic way the door is open."

Statement by UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett on detention of British soldiers in Iran (3 April 2007):

'There is a huge amount going on behind the scenes, Lord Triesman is about to have his eighth meeting with the Iranian ambassador in the last 10 days, and that is being replicated, as much as it can, in Tehran and in official meetings around the place.


'I am afraid we still have no consular access to those involved, that indeed we have not yet had a formal response to the note we sent to the Iranian authorities. They sent us a formal note and we replied, in 24 hrs, also with a formal note. We have not had a response to that. We saw Larijani on TV yesterday, we have been studying what he said and it is clear there remain some differences between us. We certainly share his preference, he seemed to be expressing, for early bilateral discussions for a diplomatic solution and we are following up those remarks with the Iranian authorities.


'There has been a lot of speculation in the media more widely, more generally, about things like, will there be a delegation to Tehran, what happens if talks fail etc, I am not going to get involved in more speculation about those issues but what I would say is that I would urge you to be cautious in assuming we are likely to see a swift resolution to this issue. Our diplomatic effort will continue, and continue intensively. But while those diplomatic efforts continue, we are clear that we still want our people released, we still want information on where they are, also immediate consular access. We have made it clear that as far as we are concerned, they were seized in Iraqi waters and we also made our views clear on the TV pictures, so called confessions and letters.


'There is only one more thing I would add, some people have read a lot into the Prime Minister's remarks about not seeing progress in the next 48 hrs, he is not talking, nor intending to imply, anything about military action, we are not seeking confrontation, we are seeking to pursue this through diplomatic channels.'

Comments by Iranian Government

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani said on Wednesday 4 April 2007 that the British government has started diplomatic discussions with the Iranian Foreign Ministry to resolve the issue of the British military personnel.

The talks have just started and "if they continue this path they can change the condition logically in such a way that the issue is resolved," Larijani told Iran's Central News Bureau.

The arrested sailors entered Iran's territorial waters to inspect an Indian ship but "this is a kind of interference in Iran's sovereignty," Larijani said.

Such an incident had taken place before, but Britain had pledged that it would not be repeated, he added.

"From the start it was intended to resolve this issue through bilateral contacts between Iran and Britain and that the other side would resolve the issue by realizing its mistake.

"But they acted as if trespassing into Iranian waters was something normal and Iran should not protest," he said. In an interview with the British Channel 4 News on Monday, Larijani stated, "This issue can be resolved and there is no need for any trial."

"Our priority is to solve this through proper diplomatic channels. We are not interested in having this issue get further complicated," he added. Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) responded by saying, "We are still studying Dr. Larijani's remarks. There remain some differences between us, but we can confirm we share his preference for early bilateral discussions to find a diplomatic solution to this problem."

First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi said on Tuesday 3 April 2007 that Britain should admit that the British vessels had entered to Iranian territorial waters and give guarantee on non-occurrence of such action in future.

Speaking to reporters on 15 British marines, he said Britain has changed its behavior in recent days and the ground is well-prepared to end the crisis through diplomatic means.

It was a blatant violation and all documents available prove it, he said citing the GPS surveys Iran already offered to the British officials.

The British soldiers had violated Iran's territorial waters in the past and the matter had been settled bilaterally.

"At first, Britain connected the issue with Iran's peaceful nuclear program and opted for clamour but due to their failure they wanted to resolve the issue through mutual dialogue which won our support." He hoped that the matter would be resolved soon.

Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel

"Britain and the European Union should understand Iran's message, urging respect for rights of other countries. As they expect their rights to be respected, Tehran also expects its rights to be respected by others. "

Comment by South African government

We must work collectively to ensure that the matter of the 15 sailors in detention is resolved through diplomatic means. We must avoid any exacerbation or the use of military intervention to deal with this situation. It is too volatile a region to be able to sustain such actions. Any actions to ignite the situation in the region will have serious consequences not just for the region but for us all.

We will continue to see how we can positively contribute to this situation through the Security Council.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister, when will President Mbeki meet with the Secretaries-General of the MDC? Will Zimbabwe be discussed by President Mbeki and President Kikwete while President Mbeki is in Tanzania for the Presidential Economic Commission?


Answer This is not a Presidential meeting - it is a meeting of the MDC Secretaries-General with South African government officials. A government team is mandated to deal with this matter and at the appropriate time President Mbeki will meet with the Secretaries-General of the MDC.

As the President said in his interview, we have already, before the Summit, had extensive discussions based on which the MDC Secretaries-General were to consult with the constituencies and draft a joint document on what would make free and fair elections possible in Zimbabwe for our consideration.

We are meeting with the Secretaries-General this afternoon. I am not sure if this document is ready. If it is, we will present it to the President for his consideration whereupon based on this he will have to report back to the Government of Zimbabwe on the recommendations from the MDC.

Based on this, President Mbeki will have to work out his own roadmap on how he wishes to fulfill his mandate to create the climate for the two parties to meet to deal with the issues raised by the factions of the MDC.

Question Deputy Minister, there are rumours from Iran that the US will strike on 6 April 2007. In that eventuality, what will the position of the South African government be seeing that you serve on the Security Council?

Answer I have not heard of any possible strike on Iran. Our position will be that we must deal with Iran on both the matters of the nuclear issue and the abducted sailors, diplomatically, through the IAEA and the Security Council. We will hope that all parties will refrain from the use of any military action, the consequences of which will be disastrous for all involved.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, based on South Africa's mandate to mediate between the parties in Zimbabwe, is there any indication when President Mugabe will meet Morgan Tsvangirai?

Answer We have only just begun the mediation efforts. A meeting between President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai will be determined by the progress in the mediation efforts. If conditions are created for such a meeting following senior officials consultations with all three groups (both MDC factions and government formations) then the Facilitation could try to set up a meeting between President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.

I have seen a report quoting Mr Tsvangirai, who is in South Africa for medical treatment at the moment, saying he welcomes the SADC decision to have President Mbeki as the mediator and has expressed confidence that President Mbeki will be able to make a genuine and serious effort to help find a solution to the situation in Zimbabwe.

This is a welcome sign that both sides have accepted President Mbeki's SADC bestowed mandate.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, is it with relief that you relinquish the Presidency of the UN Security Council? Did you achieve what you set out to?

Answer It is not with relief because we are still members of the Security Council and we will still be faced with many burning issues - Kosovo, Africa remains high on the agenda and now following the comments by the UN Secretary-General on the Middle East, this matter will also be high on the agenda of the Security Council.

Many of the issues with which we were dealing before we assumed the Presidency and now, following our Presidency, will remain high on the agenda.

As President we merely managed the meetings but we are still involved with the discussions.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, do you have any indication when the UN Security Council will be briefed on the situation in Zimbabwe?

Answer No, I am not aware of a date.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, (inaudible) will you now take a different position on the situation in Iran?

Answer As I have indicated in all my briefings, our initial position with regard to the resolution on Iran was to understand the resolution that was created, in secret, by the P5 + Germany. Once we received the draft, it was incumbent upon us to discuss the contents of the draft and like many other countries submit our own amendments, knowing that amendments involve consultations and finally a common approach.

In the end, we came to the conclusion that many of the issues we had raised were incorporated in the first draft by the P5 + Germany, some were not, and we voted for the resolution.

We will still maintain that the best body to deal with the Iran nuclear issue remains the IAEA which has the relevant expertise and is the body that has been put in place to deal with matters of nuclear non-proliferation. We did not vote for the IAEA decision that this matter be taken to the Security Council.

This matter is now in the ambit of the Security Council but if you have read all the statements at the Security Council, there is almost unanimous agreement that if certain steps are taken by Iran to satisfy the IAEA concerns, this matter should revert to the IAEA.

This remains our position and it has not changed.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, President Mugabe said that none of the SADC leaders had reprimanded him over the treatment of Morgan Tsvangirai. What makes you think that President Mugabe will take you seriously this time?

Answer If you read President Mbeki's interview, you will note that this matter was discussed. Concerns were expressed by the SADC leaders regarding the violence meted out to those arrested. In the end SADC took the decision, that because of the effects of crises in Lesotho, DRC and Zimbabwe on the region, we would deal with all these matters.

On Zimbabwe, SADC mandated President Mbeki to, on behalf of SADC, carry out this process of consultation to bring the Zimbabweans together.

As you will recall, it has always been our position, South Africa and SADC, that we will not be able to impose a solution on Zimbabwe. The best thing would be for us to contribute to an environment within which the Zimbabweans could define their own solution.

We all acknowledged there was an economic crisis. This is why the SADC Secretariat has been urged to prepare a report on how we can help Zimbabwe emerge from this crisis and our interaction with the international community, besides the political dimension, is to see how we can deal with the economic crisis facing the Zimbabweans.

The issue of sanctions is a red herring. No one, including the EU, wants to impose economic sanctions because they will only further create hardships of the people of Zimbabwe.

What the European Union and the US have done is to impose "smart sanctions". This are not economic sanctions. No one, including Zimbabweans, have called for economic sanctions.

Our own view, as reflected by the report of the Reserve Bank Governor, is that there is a very serious crisis within the Zimbabwean economy. We in SADC, have to assist, in whichever way we can, to help this economy recover from this crisis. You cannot accept an inflation rate 1060% and not be concerned with indications being that this figure will rise to 4000%.

The region, specifically South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, are receiving literally thousands of Zimbabweans coming into our countries.

Our view is that this is systematic of larger problems in Zimbabwe. We cannot stop the flow of Zimbabweans to South Africa.

But the question is, if you want to stop this flow and enable Zimbabweans to return to Zimbabwe including qualified professionals, you must ensure movement in the political processes accompanied by an economic recovery plan.

This is now what drives us under SADC's mandate.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, President Mbeki said in his interview with the Financial Times that the Iranian nuclear situation must be dealt with along with other serious issues in the Middle East. Does this imply that South Africa is not very happy with the way in which the matter of Iran was dealt with? What other mechanisms can be put in place?

Answer I have not seen this part of the President's interview. I am also not able to speak on his behalf.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, before the SADC Summit, MONUC issued statements that were more critical of President Kabila rather than Mr Bemba. The SADC communiqué however reflects support for President Kabila. Was there a feeling at the Summit that both sides need to exercise restraint and deal with the matter through negotiation?

Answer Yes, I think so. Our own view is very reflective of the UN Security Council Presidential statement about all sides having to respect the democratic processes, the rule of law, dialogue and acceptance of the fact that there are different political formations that must be given the space within which to function. This was the general thrust of the discussions.

We, ie. SADC and Africa, achieved what could only be described as a remarkable success with the holding of elections in the DRC. This violence in which an estimated 350 people have died represents a serious challenge to the stability of the DRC and we must support MONUC initiatives quite earnestly.

All parties should act with restraint.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, the LOC yesterday said that is was concerned about the impact on the Zimbabwean situation on the 2010 Soccer World Cup. What is your view?

Answer I am not sure on what basis the LOC makes this statement. There has been much speculation about South African dynamics and only last week, FIFA said it was happy with the way in which preparations were advancing.

Again, I am not sure on what basis the LOC makes such statements. After all Zimbabwe is not a province of South Africa. I cannot see how Zimbabwe will impact on this.

As you know, when people hear about DRC, Lesotho, Somalia, Darfur, for many it is not conceivable that Africa consists of 53 countries and that South Africa is only one country.

However, the LOC should know better than this.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs

Private Bag X152

Pretoria

0001

4 April 2007


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