Transcript copy: Opening Remarks at the 6th Session of the South Africa – Cuba Consultative Forum by South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad and Cuban First Deputy Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriquez, Friday 20 June 2008, Burgers Park Hotel, Pretoria

Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad:

First Deputy Foreign Minister Rodriquez of Cuba, it is a great pleasure on behalf of the Ministry and the Department of Foreign Affairs to welcome you to this 6th Session of the South Africa – Cuba Consultative Forum.

I hear that this is your first visit to South Africa, so I hope that it will be an experience that you’ll be able to enjoy both to see our country and to participate in what we regard as very important discussions.

Minister, in welcoming you let me say just how glad we are to have this opportunity.  We have always found our discussions to be invaluable, and especially now that you are the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement and you’ve handled your Chairpersonship so excellently. 

I’m happy to say that under your Chairpersonship there will be a NAM Ministerial Meeting on 27 – 30 July which our Minister will be attending.  You have managed also to organise a NAM Information Conference in Venezuela, which the Minister in the Presidency Minister Essop Pahad will be attending.  I’m sure both of these events will be important in the calendar of the Non-Aligned Movement and we’ll be happy during these discussions to get your understanding of these two conferences.

This Consultative Forum is within the context of our priority to consolidate our bilateral political and multilateral relations with a view to advancing the developmental agenda of the South.

As I said, we have been happy that you have been very active in advancing the Non-Aligned Movement revitalisation process, and Cuba as Chair has ensured that at least at the Security Council the NAM caucus has worked very effectively this year.  It has tried to coordinate our activities and that is due to your Chairpersonship.

We are looking forward to your briefing on the revitalisation of the Movement.  We are also very happy that during your Chairpersonship you put the whole issue of developmental issues on the agenda and that you’ve been excellently active in ensuring that the agenda of the NAM becomes the agenda of its members, and therefore that we are able to implement the decisions we have taken that are of common interest.

This session of our Consultative Forum, I believe, should enable us to discuss several issues:

  • The status of bilateral political and multilateral relations between our two countries;
  • The general developments within the Non-Aligned Movement and the way forward;
  • The issue of global governance including the comprehensive reform of the United Nations and South Africa’s tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and our experiences learnt;
  • Political and economic developments within SADC and Africa;
  • As well as developments within Latin America and the Caribbean.

I am very happy that on the eve of your visit Europe has just announced that they are going to lift the sanctions against Cuba.  We have always believed that these sanctions were not justified.  We hope that this decision of the European Union will enable us to move more decisively to end all sanctions against Cuba.

We also hope that we will be able to discuss the more recent crises of fuel, food security and climate changes.   Most importantly, we want to use this opportunity to discuss African crises and post-conflict resolutions, in countries like Sudan including Darfur, Somalia, Burundi, the DRC, and indeed developments in our region with the forthcoming Presidential run-offs in Zimbabwe.

We are also happy that we will be able to discuss matters of international threats to regional peace and stability.  These are the Palestinian-Israeli issue, the Iraq issue the Afghanistan issue, the Iran alleged nuclear issue.  Clearly we have much to discuss.

In welcoming you here, Minister, I hope that your stay here will be very fruitful and I hope you will see some of our achievements and also some of the challenges that we face in South Africa in the fourteen years of our democracy.  Welcome and thank you.

Deputy Minister Bruno Rodriquez:

Thank you very much, Minister Pahad.  I’m really happy enjoying the hospitality,  infact this is my first visit in an official way.  I attended the Non-Aligned Summit in Durban.  After that I was privileged to witness President Fidel Castro’s visit to South Africa and his address to the South African parliament and token of friendship and solidarity by the South African people.  I remember people in Soweto in a meeting with President Fidel Castro.

Let me express high appreciation for South Africa’s permanent support to Cuba for many years, many decades.  We feel gratitude to the South African people and the South African government.  We share many points of view on many issues on the international agenda and at the same time, we share many challenges. 

I feel that is a continuity of the same struggle, firstly for the African independence against apartheid for the independence of Namibia, the territorial integrity of Angola, the heroic resistance by the ANC and the people of South Africa.  Now in a very difficult international economic environment, we have to achieve our complete goals of development.

We are happy how in very intense consultations with South Africa as part of the NAM efforts, South Africa as a leading country in NAM and internationally.  We feel very comfortable about the level of our common goal, the NAM goals after the Havana Summit a few years ago with important outcomes and foundational arguments as part of principles of the NAM movement.

On the international fora, let me express our profound gratitude for the South African support to the resolution condemning the US embargo on Cuba, supported by a huge majority of the General Assembly members, in particular for the important South African stance in favour of the course, the actual course of human rights in their universality and interconnection in every country, especially in our South countries for every human being.  It means political and civil liberties but especially on poverty, exploitation, injustice.  It means full exercise of economic and cultural human rights.

I feel very happy about the level of coincidence in international positions between South Africa and Cuba, by the excellent level of bilateral relations.  I remember our last talks in Havana city.  I’m hundred percent sure that this session will be fruitful and positive.  Thank you very much.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

20 June 2008


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