Notes of Media Briefing by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad, Pretoria, Friday, 18 May 2007

Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad:

MIDDLE EAST

Let me first of all start with the area that continues to threaten International Peace and Stability, namely the Middle East region. As we said in our statement yesterday, we are extremely concerned about the continuing violent clashes between armed Palestinian factions affiliated to the Fatah Movement and the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) in Palestine. We regret the deaths of 44 Palestinians over the last 5 days coming in the wake of efforts by the Arab League to boost the Arab Peace Initiative on the international scene. It is the view of the South African Government that the Palestinian infighting would complicate the quest for peace by drawing the attention away from this critical opportunity to take the Peace Process forward. The South African Government therefore joins calls by both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh for efforts to keep the Palestinian Government of National Unity intact. The collapse of the National Unity Government would only serve the interests of those who do not want to see Israelis and Palestinians living in peace with each other, in separate states within internationally recognised borders. South Africa, accordingly, calls on all Palestinians to end the violence and re-focus the Palestinian leadership on the Peace Process. South Africa calls on the international community not to be seen to intervene on either side, while asking for the lifting of sanctions to help deal with the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO:

Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Security Council has decided to extend the deployment of the United Nations Organisation mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) until 31 December 2007, and authorized the continuation until that date of up to 17 030 military personnel, 760 military observers, 391 police trainers and 750 personnel of formed police units. Unanimously adopting resolution 1756 (2007), the Council also decided that MONUC would have the mandate to help the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo establish a stable security environment in the country to help build a stable political situation.

BURUNDI

Minister Charles Nqakula, the Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process and Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo, the Special Envoy to the Great Lakes travelled to Burundi on 11 - 13 May 2007 to assist in unblocking the negotiations that had stalled. The Palipehutu-FNL was demanding that before it agrees with the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement, certain conditionalities should be met, and this amounts to the following:
- Possible placement of their senior leadership in Cabinet and Senate.
- That a concurrence be reached on the Forces Technical Agreement.
It will be recalled that during the Ceasefire Agreement the Palipehutu-FNL had called for the dismantling of the Burundi Army on grounds that the Army had been corrupted and was committing acts of violence and human rights abuses. The Palipehutu-FNL is therefore advocating for an Agreement that would secure the integration of their forces and at the same time transform the army into a transparent and democratic institution. The position of Burundi is that it cannot enter into another round of negotiations. The government argues that a Ceasefire Agreement has been reached and what is left is to ensure its implementation. However, President Nkurunziza, in recent discussions with the Facilitation indicated his readiness to meet Chairman Agathon Rwasa of Palipehutu-FNL to discuss issues raised. He has emphasised his willingness to accommodate some of Palipehutu-FNL's concerns as long as their requests do not demand that the violation of the Constitution.

The Facilitation is now in the process of negotiating a possible meeting between the Palipehutu-FNL and government to discuss matters which now appear to be outside the Ceasefire Agreement and therefore not within the mandate of the Facilitation. The Facilitation is also consulting with Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Jakaya Kikwete, Chairperson and Deputy Chair of the Regional Initiative of the Burundi Peace Process respectively.
It is important for the process to move faster, we should ensure that we have sufficient resources to sustain the progress made.


WESTERN SAHARA

The status of the Western Sahara has been reviewed by the United Nations each year since 1964. The question of Western Sahara remains at an impasse and there continues to be a lack of agreement on how to enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right of self-determination. On 30 April 2007 United Nations Security Council members unanimously adopted Resolution 1754 (2007) urging Morocco and the POLISARIO Front to open unconditional talks on the disputed Western Sahara region under the supervision of the United Nations "with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara." The resolution also includes the extension of the mandate of MINURSO, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, to 31 October 2007.

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL ON KOSOVO

The European Union and the US on 11 May 2007 circulated the text of a draft resolution on the status of Kosovo. The text reflects their conviction that the Ahtisaari Plan holds the best solution to the situation in Kosovo. The draft resolution entails:

  • Endorses the Ahtisaari Plan;
  • Supersedes resolution 1244 (1999);
  • Calls for the replacement of the UN presence by an International Presence;
  • Recognises the uniqueness of Kosovo;
  • States that resolving the Kosovo issue is a matter of international peace and security; and
  • Calls for regular reports to the Security Council.

The resolution is to be adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which means that it will be legally binding on all Member States. Negotiations on the draft resolution will start soon and it is anticipated that the matter will be finalized by the end of May 2007.

The Russian Federation has distributed elements of a possible resolution but these have not as yet been translated into a formal draft text.

We have noted the visit by the US Secretary of State to Moscow on 15 May 2007 during which she discussed the issue of Kosovo with President Putin. Ms Rice has commented that she understands the concerns of Russia about Kosovo, particularly re the Serbian minority, concerning what some see as to have the potential for a precedent by Kosovo's independence. And we are going to try and work through these in the resolution. But ultimately time has come to make what is de jure, de facto. South Africa is also awaiting the outcome of the EU-Russia Summit.

In preparation for this, South Africa has consulted widely and has received visits from:

  • Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, the architect of the plan for Kosovo's future status;
  • The Foreign Minister of Serbia
  • The Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Kosovo; and
  • Mr. Ylber Hysa of the Kosovo Status Negotiating Team.
  • Minister Dlamini Zuma also met with the President of Kosovo, Dr. Fatmir Sejdiu in Brussels on 14 May 2007.
    We have also consulted widely at the United Nations.


SOUTH AFRICAN - EUROPEAN UNION MINISTERIAL TROIKA, BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

On Monday, 14 May 2007, Minister Dlamini Zuma supported by a Senior Ministerial Delegation participated in the South African- European Union Ministerial Troika which was co-chaired by Minister Dlamini Zuma and her counterpart, Minister Frank - Walter Steinmeier. The EU Troika was also composed of Dr. Luis AMADO, Portuguese Foreign Minister (who recently paid a visit to South Africa), Javier SOLANA, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and Mr.Olli REHN, Commissioner for Enlargement of the European Commission. Amongst issues on the agenda for this meeting was the EU - Africa Strategy which will be adopted at the EU - Africa Summit in Lisbon, December, 2007. Discussions on Migration, Kosovo, Developments in Africa (Great Lakes, Cot'D'Ivoire, Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, and Zimbabwe also took place. The Situation in the Middle East, Climate Change and UN Chapter V111 issues were also discussed. Ministers agreed to hold their next meeting in South Africa under the Portuguese Presidency. A Joint Communique was agreed upon which is posted on the dfa website: www.dfa.gov.za

BOLIVIAN DELEGTION'S SA VISIT

South Africa also hosted a delegation of the "Movimiento al Socialismo" (MAS), the majority party in the Bolivian Assembly, this week. The Bolivian delegation's visit is in response to the South African Government's offer to Vice President Garcia Lenera during his visit in April 2007, to assist the Bolivians with institution-building and the process of drafting their constitution. It was furthermore agreed that they interact with South African constitutional specialists from Parliament, senior officials, academics, captains of industry, civil society and the Constitutional Court.
The purpose of the Bolivian visit was threefold: To strengthen bilateral relations: To identify areas of future co-operation between the two countries and; To sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the establishment of a Mechanism for Consultations. The discussions focused on the South African experience in breaking deadlocks and creating trust in the Constitution Making Process to the benefit of the people. The Bolivian authorities have indicated their interest in benefiting from South Africa's experience with regards to the creation of a successful civil service. The visit must be seen as a part of work in progress between the two countries.

WORKING VISIT BY MINISTER DLAMINI ZUMA T0 BEIJING TO HOLD DISCUSSIONS WITH CHINESE COUNTERPART (19 - 22 MAY 2007)

Foreign Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will hold bilateral political and economic discussions with her counterpart Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Sunday 20 May 2007. This visit is important in the context of China as an economic power and Chinese entry onto the African Continent. Discussions between Ministers Dlamini Zuma and Yang come within the context of South Africa's priority to consolidate political, economic and trade relations with the Peoples Republic of China - with a focus on a developmental agenda. South Africa's strategic engagement with China is a key foreign policy priority. China has been identified as a key global actor with whom South Africa seeks to broaden relations in support of South-South cooperation, another key objective of South Africa's foreign policy.
Issues on the agenda of discussions between Ministers Dlamini Zuma and Jiechi are expected to include, among others:

  • The status of bilateral political and economic relations between both countries;
  • Preparations for the Binational Commission scheduled to be held in the second half of 2007;
  • Celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Diplomatic relations;
  • A briefing on political developments in Africa including peacekeeping and conflict resolution;
  • A briefing on developments in Asia; and
  • Security Council issues.

South Africa is China's key trade partner in Africa, accounting for nearly 21 percent of the total volume of China-Africa trade. In 2006 South African exports amounted to nearly R14, 02 billion, with imports reaching R46, 72 billion. In 2006 China became South Africa's 2nd largest import trading partner, and 6th largest export partner. One of the focus areas would be to secure more investment into South Africa.
The delegations will also look at how to implement the decisions and commitments of the Africa-China Forum and the New Asia -Africa Strategic Partnership.

STATE VISIT BY PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI TO HANOI, VIETNAM (24 - 25 MAY 2007)

South African President Thabo Mbeki, supported by Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is scheduled to pay a State Visit to Hanoi, Vietnam from Thursday - Friday 24-25 May 2007 - the first since 1994. This state visit occurs within the context of South Africa's commitment to strengthen political, trade and economic relations with Vietnam with a view to consolidating the developmental agenda of the South. Issues on the agenda of discussions between Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Minh Triet are expected to include, among others:

  • The status of bilateral political and economic relations between both countries;
  • The support of Vietnam for AsgiSA and JIPSA in terms of skills development and the sharing of best practice;
  • A briefing on developments in Africa with regard to post-conflict reconstruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, Sudan, Darfur, Somalia and Cote d' Ivoire
  • Developments in the Middle East including the Iranian nuclear conflict, Iraq and the Middle East Peace process;
  • A briefing on developments in Asia including Myanmar, East Timor and North Korea:
  • The consolidation of South-South co-operation through and within such fora as the NAM, the New Asia Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP) and other multilateral organisations; and
  • Global challenges including South Africa's mandate as the Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) including UN Security Council.

President Mbeki will also participate in the following events:

  • South Africa - Vietnam Business Forum,
  • Present an address to the Institute of International Relations and;
  • Interact with students studying at the University; visit the Temple of Literature, the Reunification Palace and the War Museum.
    It is South Africa's view that there is a large potential for economic relations and especially for the private sector to take up business opportunities in Vietnam There are many long-term trade and investment opportunities for South African companies in Vietnam.

VISIT OF UK PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR TO SOUTH AFRICA: 31 MAY - 1 JUNE 2007:

The UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to pay an official visit to South Africa from 31 May to 1 June 2007. The visit will be Prime Minister Blair's last to South Africa before stepping down on 27 June 2007. This visit is also important because it takes place on the eve of the G8 Summit to be held a week later in Germany. In addition to the official welcome and extensive discussion with President Mbeki, it is foreseen that Prime Minister Blair will deliver a farewell speech - expected to focus strongly on Africa.
The Government of Prime Minister Blair consistently emphasized the importance of Africa's development agenda by designating 2005 as the Year of Africa. Africa's development, therefore, was a primary item on the agenda of the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, and many of the recommendations of the Commission for Africa were taken up by the Gleneagles Summit, building on the G8 Africa Action Plan launched at Kananaskis in Canada in 2002. Much of this was incorporated into an agreed, detailed set of commitments by the G8 to address the areas of poverty, covering aspects such as peace and security, good governance, human development and growth.
The British Government views South Africa as a major strategic partner in Africa and we expect that this relationship will be maintained by Mr Blair's successor. Prime Minister's visit presents an opportunity to review our relations and how these can be taken forward.

Questions-and-Answers Session:

Question: Has the issue of Zimbabwe's attendance on the EU-Africa meeting in December been discussed and decided on during Minister Dlamini Zuma's recent meetings in Brussels ?

Answer: I am not sure that it was discussed at the meetings, but assume it might have been given it was the issue that held up previous Summits. From SA's point of view is that there are so many important issues and interaction between Africa and the EU like economics and trade, conflict resolution, migration and climate change, Kosovo independence that needs to be addressed at Summit level. I don't think the Zimbabwe issue was high on the agenda at these talks, since the focus was on the need to continue with preparations for a Summit and rather see later how the Zimbabwe issue unfolds. We think that the long-awaited Summit is absolutely essential and the issue of representation should not stall our concrete preparations and take away from the overall importance of the Summit.

Question: What is South Africa doing to address worsening trade gap in China's favour - any specific actions to be taken?

Answer : While trade issues fall under the responsibility of DTI, I know that we are trying to look at how we can be involve China in areas of beneficiation. We must identify the areas of beneficiation, what resources are available - then say what we can put in and asking what they can put in. At the same time we must look at what we can export to China. All the important leaders of China have visited South Africa and they keep asking what we can sell to them, what products can we supply to them and stating that they will give it favourable assessment? These assurances we have had from China and Russia. Our private sector needs to concretely identify those areas - we as Foreign Affairs and Government cannot do that. We however encourage our private sector all the time to come up with concrete proposals to increase our exports, to bring in more investments, to bring in the skilled personnel that our country need - in line with JIPSA and ASGISA. Government has created the environment for better co-ordination and co-operation and it in incumbent on the private sector to exploit those export opportunities. One must acknowledge that with regards to Africa they have done excellently in building relations we encourage them to do the same with regards to trade with China, maybe also through trilateral arrangements, including countries of Europe. The growing SA economy is providing opportunities for greater partnerships.

Question: China has reportedly provided the equivalent of about R250million in development assistance to South Africa to be used for skills upgrade. What is the progress on this?

Answer:
Questions on the commitments re the allocation of development funding, including for JIPSA needs to be taken up with the Deputy Presidency and the Treasury, who are dealing with these matters. I think the key issue is that there were many commitments made at the China-Africa Summit and that the idea was that each country would unpack these commitments either through the structures of SADC or NEPAD. I believe we need to spent much more time on the important agreements from the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership and TICAD (with Japan) and concretely unpack these to see whether we are getting maximum mileage.

Question: Could the Deputy Minister comment on the latest re the proposed Hamas leader's visit to South Africa?

Answer: We cannot fight for democracy and then reject democracy and the vote of the people. SA's thus officially recognised the Palestinian government lead by Hamas. After the Mecca Agreement, a government of national unity was established and we agreed to continue to interact with that government. Pres Abass has visited South Africa and it is expected that Prime Minster Imail Haniyeh from Hamas will accept the invitation to visit South Africa like other Palestinian ministers and representatives have visited recently. We don't deal with Fatah and Hamas as a government, we deal with their government authority at a government to government level, while ANC would interact with them as movements at a party level. While the invitation to Prime Minister is at an official level, that is based on a principle decision as we would similarly interact with members of the Israeli government. That is because we are working on a two state solution continuously seeing how we can assist. SA is now very committed to the Arab Plan of 2002, because we believe that is the best possibility for a regional solution. The plan is base on return to the 1967 borders, establish a Palestinian state and normalise relations - economically and politically - and security of both states and I think that is an excellent basis to move forward. We would thus multilaterally and bilaterally support the Arab Plan as a basis to move forward.


Question: What are the changes for a favourable outcome of the UNSCR vote on independence for Kosovo?

Answer: This is a fundamental and priority issue to the EU and the US. As I tried to outline to you, South Africa is awaiting the draft motion as proposed by the EU and the US, although it is believed that the Russians have some concerns of the Ahtisaari Plan, and they have not indicated what these are and have not provided any alternatives. We have not had detailed feedback on the US Secretary of State's meeting with Russians and now the EU-Africa plan, but we are hopeful a common approach would come from these consultations. South Africa has a good idea of all the positions and have consulted extensively, including as I have indicated Minister Dlamini Zuma having met the President of Kosovo during her European visit a few days ago. As the Minster will now also consult on the issue in China and we will wait for her feedback with the hope of a common approach. We will obviously look at what the Russians' approach will be - there are no indications yet whether the will veto or not veto the resolution to be put forward. We will thus have to wait for all these pieces to fall into place. While it is clear there are fundamental differences between the US and Russia, it is our hope that all the discussions that are taking place can result in a common approach.

Question : What is the delay in the solution of the situation of the Western Sahara? What is the African Union view on this?

Answer: The issue has been with the UN since 1964. The initial UN settlement plan was first approved by both sides and then later rejected by the Moroccans, then came the Baker initiative and that was rejected again. You have a difficulty that many powerful forces believe that it is not a decolonisation issue - despite UN resolutions and international legal rulings - therefore it can have some limited autonomy within the framework of Morocco. But the people of Western Sahara totally reject that - they believe they are a sovereign state, previously occupied by Spain, then Morocco, despite international rulings stating they should be an independent states and they want a referendum in line with the UN resolution to determine what they want. So there is no meeting of minds of the two sides. In terms of the African Union, 21 countries have recognised the Polisario Front and we argue for that decolonisation process in line with the UN Resolution

Question :What are the prospects for a solution in the Middle East if there is not even agreement on the basic issue of a Palestinian State?

Answer: The issue of a Palestinian State is not debatable, the issue is its boundaries and we have been arguing that it is in Israel's long term interest to accept that and not to try and cut it up into pieces, without giving it the necessary authority and allow other general aspects of sovereignty. We believe the Palestinians want a two state solution and we support that. Our arguments with Israel have been over securing their own security - by increasing settlements, putting up walls, border closures continuing and creating an untenable situation in occupied territories especially in Gaza. We believe the situation cannot be solved militarily, but only through genuine negotiations and that is why we see some hope with the Arabs over the last year or two being involved more actively in trying to get the Israelis to accept the Arab Plan unconditionally and then come and talk. The current start of discussion between Egypt, Jordan and Israel is important and this can open the way for a broader Arab Israeli discussion. I think we are closer to finding a solution then we have been for many years

Question: Indications are that the IAEA report of next week will be negative in terms of Iran stopping its nuclear activities. Is there support for a third round of sanctions?

Answer: The issue of Iran is not going anywhere fast and we warned that once you go to the UN Security Council and set deadlines, things can only escalate. The escalation of sanctions is as a result of the confrontational approach of attacks and counter-attacks, with warnings from all sides without explaining what it will be. We will continue through the IAEA and through our membership of the UNSC to say that Iran must finalise the two outstanding issues to the IAEA. Nobody is challenging a country's right to develop nuclear facilities for peaceful means, but people are saying because of Iran's past record they cannot be trusted. We are saying that through the IAEA you should have the safety mechanisms put in place to ensure that such an energy programme is not misused for other purposes. We voted for the Resolution last time, and we will now wait to see what progress if any had been made and on the basis of that it will be determine how we vote. Although now there is no more voting, but incremental procedure - because if there is no progress within 60 days the next steps fall into place.


Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 21 May, 2007 8:56 AM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa