Notes following Briefing to Media by President Thabo Mbeki and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Union Buildings, Pretoria, on Monday 17 March 2008
President Thabo Mbeki
We are very glad indeed that President Yudhoyono is here with us together with the delegation of leaders of the people of Indonesia on this bilateral visit. We had the opportunity with the president to review the bilateral relations between Indonesia and South Africa and we are happy indeed that we agree essentially on all important issues including the question of the need further to strengthen these relations, on the issue on the need for us to continue to work together with regard to multilateral matters.
The agreements that you see that have just been signed, including this joint declaration and strategic partnership between South Africa and Indonesia is an indication of the determination and commitment that both governments have to develop these relations.
I think you would probably know that we have got two particular institutions charged with the task of promoting these relations. One of them is a trade commission and the other one is a broader joint commission between the two countries, and these bodies, we looked at their work and indeed agreed that we must make sure that they are active in terms of signing the already signed agreements, including the ones signed today and therefore look at all sorts of opportunities to expand these relations – and the agreements really cover all fields of cooperation – in trade, in investments, in energy, in education, arts and culture – as we have just seen, defence and so on. So it’s across a broad spectrum, and given the excellent political relations that exist between Indonesia and South Africa, indeed we think there is a very firm base for the expansion of those relations in all of these specific fields.
One of the matters that we have agreed, which would facilitate this cooperation, is really seeing how quickly we can conclude and implement an agreement on air links between the two countries because we think it is important that people should be able to move between the two countries easily, and that would help in all areas, tourism, economic area, business cooperation and so on. So that is a matter that we will follow up.
I was very pleased that the president had an opportunity to go via Cape Town, having arrived there in Cape Town on Saturday and had an opportunity to visit the grave of Sheik Yussuf who is a hero of our people a great hero of the Indonesian people, indeed very important, and of course the opportunity to speak to South Africans of Indonesian origin in that part of the country.
The president has just said now that Indonesia will be offering scholarships to South Africans to re-learn Indonesian languages, Indonesian culture and so on. I have asked that I must be included among the students. But it is a signal; it is an indication really of the nature of the relations.
We also agreed with the president that the next summit of the new Asia-Africa Partnership, it’s agreed that it would be held in South Africa, but it should be held before April last year because both countries will have elections around that time, so it’s important to hold that summit, following the summit held in Bandung and Jakarta in 2005 so that new Chairs can then be elected and then we can hand over to them. That will happen.
But also the presence of the president here gave us the possibility to express our appreciation for one, the initiative that Indonesia has taken to bring Asia and Africa together to address these issues of capacity-building in Palestine. We think that is an important initiative further to assist the Palestinian people. And of course as I have expressed our appreciation for the manner in which Indonesia and South Africa are cooperating as members of the United Nations Security Council – indeed we’ve been working very well on that level and we will continue to do so. So I am quiet certain that what the visit of the president will do, will give further impetus to our cooperation in all of these bilateral areas that have been identified, as well as further cement our capacity to work together at the multilateral level.
But let me once again say thank you very much president for your visit and indeed you are most welcome. Thanks a lot.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Thank you Mr President.President Thabo Mbeki, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to visit South Africa on the 17th and 18th of March to do a return visit to the visit of President Mbeki to Indonesia and I find that South Africa is very beautiful, very warm and friendly country of progress.
We just had a very good bilateral meeting with president Mbeki and he has explained a number of the agenda of the meeting and I wish only to add a few things to what president Mbeki has explained.
I am very optimistic about future cooperation between Indonesia and South Africa, which will be expanded significantly especially after signing of the joint declaration on strategic partnership for peaceful and prosperous future.
Economically South Africa is an advanced country and a fast growing country in Africa and Indonesia is the largest economy in South-East Asia and if we combine the potentials of our two countries the benefits for cooperation will be enormous for both sides.
For example, I can say that in 2007 our trade rose 28% compared to 2006. And if we continue to harness the opportunities, the benefits will be felt by both sides and I truly agree with president Thabo Mbeki that we need to intensify the work of the joint commission and the joint trade commission so that we can advance our trade and also other economic activities.
On global and regional forums Indonesia and South Africa continue to work closely in maintaining our cooperation, for example in the UNCS and in other forums.
As president Mbeki has said, as co-chairman of the Asia-Africa Partnership conference of 2005, Indonesia and South Africa continue to advance this partnership so that we will be able to address global issues such as food, energy and other issues.
A clear example of our intention to have a concrete cooperation in the context of the new Asia-Africa strategic partnership is our intention to hold the Asia-Africa conference for capacity building for Palestine; and during the last summit of OIC in Senegal I informed this initiative to the conference, which was also attended by Asian and African leaders and the conference expressed their support for this initiative.
Indonesia also supports the revitalisation of the cooperation of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation and we hope that this cooperation will be able to establish cooperation on natural disasters, on early warning systems for the Tsunami, on energy, trade and other categories.
That is all I have to say. There are of course some technical and regulation issues that we have to (inaudible). But I am convinced and optimistic that under the umbrella of the strategic partnership we will be able to overcome all these issues.
Questions and Answers
Question: My question is to both president Mbeki and Yudhoyono. Both of you mentioned that the upcoming Asia-Africa Summit both countries committed to the Palestine Authority capacity building. My question is that what are the challenges that both countries are facing; what are the expectations and what is the benchmark for success? Thank you.
Answer (President Yudhoyono): Thank you very much. As you all know the efforts to promote peace and find lasting resolution to the Palestinian conflict has been going on for a long time. In Annapolis the parties have met and addressed political and security issues. And afterwards in Paris international donors have met to discuss financing issues. Both Indonesia and Africa intend to address issues relating to capacity building of the Palestinian Authority.
Our key challenge here is to promote unity within the Palestinian factions so that once we do have capacity building that capacity will then endure within the body politics of the Palestinian Authority.
At the present moment Indonesia, South Africa and the Palestinian Authority are consulting closely to formulate a needs assessment. Once we have that needs assessment we will be able to issue an appeal to Asian and African country on what immediate needs can be provided for them such as training, education and other things.
And that gives us criteria for needs assessment – whether or not the needs that are given by Palestine can actually be met by the delivery of assistance by the Asian and African countries.
President Mbeki: Well I don’t know if there is anything more I can say to what the president has said. The president just mentioned now two important conferences that have taken place with regard to Palestine. One of them was the Annapolis conference, which attended to the matter of the negotiations between Israel and Palestine and we were all there, we participated in that conference because of our support for that process. The President then of course also mentioned the conference in Paris which was to generate the resources that Palestine needs for development and so on. Again we participated in that conference.
This matter that the president has raised which is very important and we support it fully is this capacity issue because when you say alright lets say you have found a political settlement; lets say you are able to generate the resources for development, but does the Palestinian Authority have the capacity to act as this government of Palestine that it is? So it’s an important third leg to this processes, and as the president has said, this is something that has to be decided – what sort of capacity is needed, when, where, how soon and so on? They have to be decided together with the Palestinian Authority. And indeed the president did say earlier that when he was in Dakkar, Senegal, at the OIC, he met Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine who is fully in support of this initiative because indeed the Palestinian Authority needs this capacity in addition to everything else, so we will get that response and then try and mobilise the whole of Asia and Africa to provide the necessary resources for that purpose so that that capacity is there to use now and of course to take advantage of, hopefully, a positive outcome of the process of negotiations.
Question: My question is to both presidents, just for the presidents to elaborate more if they are satisfied with the work of the Africa-Asia partnership since Bandung, especially with regard to the area of economic development and tourism in the two regions?
Answer (President Mbeki): Well I think the first thin that we need to bear in mind here is that you are dealing with an initiative that is three years old, that is something that you shouldn’t forget. That is why we took the view that we need this framework document that we’ve just signed. It’s an agreement between the two of us as co-chairs to convey this framework document to other members of the forum. You see that was important because it was necessary to take into account what was agreed in Bandung and Jakarta in 2005 and to exactly look at the question that we are raising: What capacity do we have? Then to pursue the objectives that were identified in Bandung and in Jakarta within one framework. So you would see that document that it therefore includes an institutional framework for the implementation of the pursuit of the objectives that we have agreed when we met in Indonesia in 2005.
So I think we are at a stage still of building up this partnership and giving it specific form so that it can indeed pursue this particular matters to which you refer. I think we are still at the stage of the construction of this relationship.
President Yudhoyono: My views are similar to the ones expressed by president Mbeki in that the Bandung spirit of 1955 continues to be relevant today. Back then when we all fought for justice it was the fight for freedom and independence of nations but today this has a different meaning. Today when we fight for justice we actually fighting for economic prosperity and equality and opportunity. On the issue on whether there is a framework, there cannot be a single framework because within Asia and Africa there are many frameworks of cooperation and all these frameworks can mutually reinforce one another. What is important is that they all lead to mutual benefit and what is also important is that they address issues of today such as food, energy and climate change.
Question: My question is to both presidents. How do your countries deal with the problem of electricity, especially to President Thabo Mbeki, I hear that you use a lot of coal here and the use of coal produces pollution.
Answer (President Mbeki): First of all, as the president indicated earlier, the two countries have agreed to cooperate on these issues of energy and we think that is important. South Africa’s minister of Minerals and Energy will be visiting Indonesia next month to pursue this particular question. You know that the two countries face a similar challenge currently on this issue. Because of the rate of growth the demand for electricity in both countries – industrial use, domestic use and so on – its important that we look at this question jointly because it’s a similar challenge that we are facing. Now indeed the bulk of the electricity produced in this country is from coal – coal-fired stations. Now I’m quiet sure you are familiar with the way this matter is being addressed globally within the whole context of the Kyoto protocol about the development of technologies that would reduce the Greenhouse gas emissions in terms of power stations around the world that produce electricity from coal. So in this country, like others, we are paying attention to this and indeed cooperating with other countries with regard to the question of the development of the necessary technologies and accessing those technologies to be able to address that issue.
We also taken decisions here to build, and in fact some of it is happening already, gas powered power stations and more of those will be built. We have also taken decisions about nuclear energy, and again those will be built. I should add that there is a project which is (inaudible), which is generating electricity from the Congo because the Congo has huge capacity for the production of hydroelectricity. So that is a matter that is also that is being actively being pursued. But that electricity that will come from that particular project will supply a bigger part of the continent, not just us in this region. So as you can see I’m talking about renewable resources like hydroelectricity and so on; and the better management of the emissions that come from the use of coal.
We believe that it is very important that Indonesia and South Africa should meet on this matter to say: “Here is a shared problem in Indonesia and South Africa, how do we respond to it?” it is an outcome of similar development processes – development catching up with your generation of electricity, how do you respond to this as quickly as possible and how do we cooperate to respond to this? So that is the direction that we are taking and it is indeed an important matter.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
17 March 2008