Notes following Briefing to the Media by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad and Ambassador Gert Grobler, Media Centre, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Sunday 27 July 2008

BRIEFING BY DEPUTY MINISTER AZIZ PAHAD

TERRORIST ATTACKS IN INDIA

The South African government very strongly condemns the recent terrorist attacks in Bangalore and Ahmedabad where at least 16 bombs exploded killing 39 people and it is expected that this number will rise quite substantially and leaving 110 wounded.

We would like to once again, reiterate the position of the South African government, that terrorism can never be a justification for any so-called cause and that we will again do everything possible, through the United Nations,
African Union and the forthcoming Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial meeting to do everything to ensure we can move faster to co-operate internationally to deal with these acts of terrorism that seem to be growing in numbers.

We would like to, on behalf of the South African government, offer our condolences to the families of those who were killed and injured.

PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI TO HOST EGYPTIAN COUNTERPART

President Mbeki will host his counterpart Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday 29 July 2008 where there will be major discussions on political, economic and other related issues between the two Heads of State.

President Mubarak will be in South Africa from Monday 28 – Wednesday 30 July 2008.  He will be accompanied by seven Ministers: Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, the Minister in the Presidency, Trade and Industry, Communications, Transport and Agriculture and President Mbeki will therefore be supported by the counterparts of these Ministers.

This is a historic State Visit – this is the first time that an Egyptian Head of State has visited a sub-Saharan country – we believe this is a very important visit given the fact that Egypt plays a major role, not only in Africa but as you are aware, in the Middle East and indeed, in the Gulf area.

Egypt is not only a key player in the African Union, the United Nations but also in the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Unity (OIC) and indeed, will host the Non-Aligned Movement Summit next year.

As you are also aware, in France, the Mediterranean Conference was held recently, which is trying to bring about cohesion amongst the countries of the Mediterranean.  Egypt also participated in this Summit and the State Visit to South Africa will be an important occasion to understand from President Mubarak where this process is expected to go.

Coming so soon after the African Union Summit hosted by Egypt in Sharm El-Sheikh where major decisions were taken on many issues, this will be an important opportunity for our two Heads of State and their delegations to review these decisions and to see how we can co-operate to ensure that these decisions are implemented which will also ensure that the African Union is strengthened financially, politically and otherwise.

The African Union government debate will be high on the agenda because as you know, this was discussed at the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit.  This debate is reaching a very important stage and we will have the opportunity to deliberate on how to take the Sharm El-Sheikh decisions further.

Egypt is currently on the African Union’s Peace and Security Council and we will therefore get a sense of all the conflict situations but especially the situation in Darfur in particular and the situation in Sudan generally because of its impact on Egypt.  We will also seek to understand the status of the Chad – Ethiopian and Djibouti as well as the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflicts.

It will also be important, because as you know, Egypt brokered the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, and is therefore an important player in the Middle East.  It will also again be an opportunity to get a sense from the Egyptian delegation, not only of how the ceasefire agreement is holding but what is the way forward towards achieving the Annapolis agreements towards a two-state solution.

You cannot also underestimate Egypt’s role in dealing with other situations including Iraq and the Iranian nuclear issue that this will also be high on the agenda to understand how we can co-operate in order to bring about stability with regard to these two situations. 

Economic diplomacy will again be prominent in the discussions.  Our political links have been developing quite strongly in the last 14 years but it is quite clear that our economic relations have not achieved full potential.  We have also signed the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments and on Trade which were concluded in 1998.

A Memorandum of Understanding on Economic Co-operation is currently under consideration at the moment.  An Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation entered into force in 1998.  Other agreements include co-operation in the field of tourism, science and technology and air services.  An agreement on Maritime Transport will be reviewed later this year.  Agreements on co-operation in the field of environmental management and information and communications technology are currently under consideration.

Our economic relations at the moment amount to approximately R500 million annually.  I must say that for two major powers in Africa – one in North Africa and another in sub-Saharan Africa, this figure is not what one would expect.  The only good thing about this is that in 2007 South Africa had a positive trade balance of R260 721 000.  This is still too little.

MINISTER DLAMINI ZUMA TO LEAD SOUTH AFRICAN DELEGATION TO NAM MINISTERIAL MEETING

As you know, the Minister of Foreign Affairs following the inaugural South Africa – European Union Summit in Bordeaux, France will be travelling to Iran to attend the NAM Ministerial meeting scheduled from Tuesday – Wednesday 29-30 July 2008.  The theme of the Conference is “Solidarity for Peace, Justice and Friendship,” and it will be an opportunity to prepare for the NAM Summit to be hosted by Egypt next year.

It is our view that more than ever, the Non Aligned Movement now has to understand the important role it plays in world politics.  The vast majority of the countries in the world representing all continents are members of the NAM and the G-77 + China and given the new challenges that we experience in the international arena, the recent developments like the rising fuel crisis, the increase in food prices and the whether we will achieve the Millennium Development Goals – this will be a very important NAM Ministerial meeting.

Off course, you cannot have a NAM meeting where we do not discuss the major threats to international peace and security and as we will discuss it in South Africa with the Egyptian delegation, Minister Dlamini Zuma will in Iran discuss it within the context of the NAM – this relates to the Palestine-Israel situation, the Iraq situation, Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear issue and high on the agenda is how we co-operate to fight terrorism and the reform of the United Nations.

We do believe that coming on the eve of the next Summit, like all multilateral organisations, the NAM has to see how it can also transform itself to become more effective in today’s international order.  Under Cuba’s chairmanship in the last two years, NAM has shown a new dynamism and a new collective way in which to approach our work both at the UN including at the Security Council and all other UN institutions.  So, this Ministerial meeting will review all of this and see what we can do to take NAM towards a new stage in its development.

MINISTER DLAMINI ZUMA TO CO-CHAIR 10th SA-IRAN JOINT COMMISSION

Following the NAM Ministerial meeting Minister Dlamini Zuma will remain in Tehran to co-chair with the Acting Iranian Finance Minister Hoosein Samsani, the 10th South Africa – Iran Joint Commission scheduled from Saturday – Sunday 2-3 August 2008.

This Joint Commission has two legs – the Political and Social Affairs Working Group which deals with issues like the Middle East, Africa, disarmament and nuclear issues, human rights, global governance, regional co-operation, South Africa’s Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative, education, health, environment, tourism, arts and culture, science and technology, sports and recreation and women’s affairs.  There is therefore quite an extensive programme under this working group.  The Minister will be supported by key people from the various departments.

The Economic and Technical Working Group is the second group which deals with commerce, customs, oil and petrochemical, exhibitions, transport, agriculture, housing, free trade zones, investment co-operation, banking, trade promotion, electricity and mining.

This Joint Commission comes at a time, as I have said, when Iran is crucial to developments in the region – in relation to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Palestine-Israel situation.  Nobody challenges the fact that Iran is fundamental to the way in which we work together to work to resolve all the issues to which I have just referred.

But more significantly, the Iranian nuclear issue is an important issue at this stage because as you are aware, the IAEA Board in June 2008 presented its latest report.  The Director-General of the IAEA has stated that the Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.  However, the Director-General felt that there was not sufficient progress on the issue of the possible military dimensions related to the so-called “Green Salt” project, the high explosive testing and the missile re-entry vehicle elements which could or could not have a military dimension.  These documents were given to Iran only in December last year and we do hope that they will be able to resolve this final issue so that we can get the issue of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme finally resolved so that we can stabilise the situation in that region.  As you know, the G-5 + 1 have now proposed new initiatives to Iran on this issue.  It is a matter that we have not been fully briefed on – ie. the content of this proposal but we do believe this initiative to which the Iranian’s have in principle reacted positively to and we do hope hat our own discussions will enable us to get a better understanding.

As you know, Ambassador Minty is our representative on the IAEA and he has been endorsed by the African Union, in the event of the present Director-General Dr ElBaradei not standing for re-election, to be the African candidate to be the Director-General of the IAEA.  Ambassador Minty will be part of the Minister’s delegation and we hope that we will get a better handle on this alleged Iranian nuclear weapons programme so that we can deal with it effectively.  It is also important for us to get movement on this issue because the continuing threats of military action against Iran is destabilising the region and therefore we do hope we can find some solution.

Finally, as you remember, in my last briefing I expressed my view that there was growing concern about the International Criminal Court’s request for President El-Bashir of Sudan to be interdicted.  Since then, you know that the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League have met in an Extraordinary meeting and have expressed their concern about the indictment and have indicated that they would take the necessary measures to ensure that we can deal with this issue in a better manner.

However, more important for us: the AU Peace and Security Council met on the 14th July 2008 and I believe they have now taken a decision that binds us all in how we should approach this issue: I will just give you elements of this decision of the AU:

“The AU reiterated its unflinching commitment to combating impunity and promoting democracy, the rule of law and good governance throughout the entire continent, in conformity with its Constitutive Act, and, in this respect, condemns once again the gross violations of human rights in Darfur.

However, the “Council reaffirmed its statement of 11 July 2008, in which it expressed its strong conviction that the search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not impede or jeopardise efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace and reiterated the AU’s concern with the misuse of indictments against African leaders, in conformity with its decision on the Abuse of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction, adopted by the 11th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt on 30 June and 1 July 2008.

It went on to say, “in accordance with the Rome Statute, the ICC is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions, which have therefore the primary responsibility of investigating or prosecuting cases over which they have jurisdiction.”

It also recalled the “principle of the presumption of innocence, as a general principle of law which is enshrined in the Rome Statute of the ICC.”

It “stressed the need for international justice to be conducted in a transparent and fair manner, in order to avoid any perception of double standard in conformity with the principles of international law, and expressed concern at the threat that such developments may pose to efforts aimed at promoting the rule of law and stability, as well as building strong national institutions in Africa.”

It went on to “express its conviction that in view of the delicate nature of the processes underway in Sudan, approval by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the application by the ICC prosecutor could seriously undermine the ongoing efforts aimed at facilitating the early resolution in the Sudan as a whole, and may lead to further suffering for the people of the Sudan and greater destabilisation with far-reaching consequences for the country and the region.”

It has now decided and has requested the “United Nations Security Council, in accordance with the provisions of Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, to defer the processes initiated by the ICC.”

This is what will guide most of the African countries in dealing with this request for the indictment of President El Bashir and we hope now that the Security Council will consider very seriously the views of Africa and the Arab League and will take the necessary measures to defer this matter so that we can deal with this matter in a much better way that will not undermine the ICC and will enable us to deal with impunity in the broader context of reconciliation and finding solutions.

OUTCOMES OF SA-EU SUMMIT (Ambassador Grobler)

The historic South Africa – European Union Summit which took place within the context of South Africa – European Union Strategic relations took place in Bordeaux, France on Friday 25 July 2008.
The South African delegation was led by President Thabo Mbeki, and included Ministers Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Marthinus van Schalkwyk and Mosibudi Mangena.  Unfortunately, due to pressures of the Doha discussions which are at a critical stage in Geneva at the moment, Minister Mpahlwa could not join the discussions.

The EU delegation for the Summit will be led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and included the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Javier Solana, Secretary General of the Council and EU High Representative for CFSP, as well as José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. 

I will not go into the background of this meeting, Deputy Minister Pahad in his recent media briefing presented the background to this meeting quite extensively.

As you are aware, we have the South Africa – European Union Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) which continues to serve as the foundation of interaction between South Africa and the EU but based on the importance that the EU attaches to South Africa – to its bilateral relations, the role that South Africa plays on the continent, to its role globally, the EU had proposed that we enter into a Strategic Partnership which they also have with countries like Russia, India, Brazil and makes provision for, apart from the existing sound and good bilateral relations and the focus on trade and economic issues, the focus on broadening the political dialogue between South Africa and the European Union that will look not only at bilateral relations but also increasingly at issues relating to the continent and also globally.

There are a number of fora to ensure that there are opportunities, not just at senior officials level but on Ministerial level – there will be two Ministerial troikas a year – and then there will be regular summits.

The Summit in Bordeaux was preceded by a senior officials meeting, as is customary, and then a Ministerial troika meeting chaired by Ministers Dlamini Zuma and Bernard Kouchner and in essence, the two Ministers discussed four documents that had to be tabled at the Summit.  The first one was a report on the implementation of the South Africa – EU Strategic Partnership and the priorities for future co-operation – ie. the way forward.  There was also the joint statement that was adopted by the Summit and then there were two other documents – given the importance of climate change, there was a joint declaration on climate change.  And finally there was a joint statement on the role of the private sector in Africa – this is an initiative that was launched by French President Sarkozy and to which the South African government had no objection in principle but it had to be very closely aligned to the Africa – EU Summit decisions and the Joint Action Plan agreed to in Lisbon in December 2007 and off course, to NEPAD.

After these intensive discussions at senior officials and Ministerial levels, the substance of these documents were taken to the Summit and were adopted by the Summit.
The Summit took place in a highly constructive and amicable atmosphere which really augurs well for future co-operation between the EU and South Africa.  I will not deal at length with all the various sectors but will highlight some of the areas.

The first was off course political dialogue and I can say that since we established the Strategic Partnership in 2007 the Political Dialogue between the two countries has strengthened considerably.  We also agreed at the Summit that there would be a Political Dialogue Forum on a troika basis with the European Union which will make provision for regular consultations on issues related to the continent and globally.

On co-operation in specific areas, the officials and ministers had detailed discussions on the environment, co-operation in the field of energy, science and technology – that is one of the areas in which co-operation between South Africa and the EU is particularly vibrant and intensive and in which we have a whole range of co-operation projects with the European Union. 

There are areas like customs where revenue services like SARS and the EU Commission have ongoing dialogue on customs matters within the ambit of the World Customs Organisation in the interest of trade facilitation and this is going very well.

Another important area that was identified was transport: South Africa and the EU have agreed on the need to deepen co-operation in the field of transport and that we have just created a transport dialogue forum which will look at areas such as aviation and maritime co-operation and issues relating to air services agreements.  This is necessary, particularly in view of the 2010 World Cup to see what we can do in this regard.

There are areas like space and migration statistics – these are areas that form part of our existing co-operation and which will be deepened.

Let me briefly say something on the trade and economic co-operation – on the issue of the Economic Partnership Agreements – as you are aware at the Lisbon Summit a decision was reached that there would be ongoing discussions between the EU and South Africa on this matter.  We had an open and frank exchange on the EPAs – President Mbeki once again reiterated the concerns of Angola, South Africa and Namibia on certain provisions of the interim EPAs and made it very clear that there are elements that are of concern.  For South Africa, the EPAs should serve to promote development, regional integration.  It was agreed and both sides expressed their commitment to bridge the prevailing differences and to see how an outcome that was balanced and agreeable to all parties could be reached.

Other areas that are discussed in terms of our co-operation: employment and social policies, ICT, development co-operation where the EU is playing a key role in working with South Africa in terms of the multi-annual programmes and the country strategic paper and the President thanked the EU for the excellent programme that we have in this regard.

I mentioned that Minister van Schalkwyk was present and given the vital challenges that climate changes poses, it was agreed that both sides should work jointly in terms of the European Commission and South Africa for environment and sustainable development.  We also have a working group on climate change and we will take this very important issue in a concrete manner.  I can just mention that the EU had a lot of praise for the role that South Africa has been playing and continues to play in this field and commended South Africa for its role recently in Bali and moving towards Copenhagen.

For us the Strategic Partnership has been an issue on which we have said to the EU from the beginning that this is mechanism that we would utilise to promote the interests of Africa, the Africa – EU Joint Action Plan emerging from the Africa – EU Summit and we agreed on this issue – that the implementation of the Action Plan should be taken forward as a matter of urgency and President Mbeki strongly stressed this.

There was also a discussion on food security which is an issue currently.  President Mbeki alluded to the serious implications of food security not just for Africa but also further afield and welcomed the involvement and engagement of the international community in addressing this very serious issue.  In response the EU recognises the impact of high food prices on the developing world and President Sarkozy and Mr Louis Michel announced the EU will make available, over the next 2-3 years, an amount of €1 billion towards assisting the developing world in dealing with the food crisis.  It is expected that this fund will go towards fertilizer, seeds, capacity building, investment in food production.  President Mbeki welcomed this initiative by the European Union.

There was a discussion, although not a very lengthy one, on the Doha Round currently underway in Geneva.  The situation is quite fluid and proposals by the EU, the NAMA countries – both sides reiterated that this should be concluded as a matter of urgency. 

Deputy Minister Pahad briefly touched on the ICC – this was also briefly discussed by the EU and the EU expressed its dismay regarding Sudan’s lack of co-operation with the ICC but President Mbeki elaborated the African position as mentioned by Deputy Minister Pahad.

There was the issue of Zimbabwe where the EU expressed its position – just prior to the Summit, as you are aware, sanctions against Zimbabwe were increased.  This was not discussed however.  President Mbeki gave a briefing on the current status of the Facilitation.  The joint communiqué indicates that South Africa stressed the need for the right of the Zimbabwean people to determine their future free of outside interference and the most urgent task right now is for the leadership of Zimbabwe to be assisted to negotiate an agreement that will assist the Zimbabweans resolve their current challenges.  The EU welcomed the commitment of President Mbeki to the facilitation with a view to reaching an early and successful outcome.  We referred to the AU resolution at Sharm El-Sheikh and said that consistent with the undertaking of the AU that the EU and South Africa calls for an immediate end to violence and South Africa also said that we called on the Zimbabwean parties to act with urgency and co-operate in good faith towards the successful conclusion of the negotiations.

I can also add that at the press conference, there was very strong support from the EU through statements made by Presidents Barosso and Sarkozy.  President Sarkozy said, “We wholeheartedly support the courageous mediation of President Mbeki and back the idea to give him more time.  President Mbeki’s mediation must be supported.  There is no other way and everyone in Europe agrees to this.”

In conclusion, this first and historic Summit was indeed a constructive one which laid the foundation for even deeper and stronger co-operation between South Africa and the EU not only bilaterally but in the interest of Africa.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister, are you aware of any parallel talks happening in Harare?

Answer No, all I am aware of is that in the Memorandum of Understanding all parties said that negotiations should not be carried out through the media.

Question Deputy Minister, the Bordeaux Summit – do you think that the EU extending the travel ban on Zimbabwean officials ahead of the Summit supports the work of President Mbeki?

Answer You have heard by consistent view that the AU Summit meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh took a unanimous view on the situation in Zimbabwe – we then had a situation where the British and the Americans tried to force this matter through the UN Security Council through a Chapter VII resolution.  When this was defeated through a veto by Russia and China, they took the matter to the EU.  For us, it is difficult to understand the objectives of new sanctions when everyone if aware that there is progress.  As Ambassador Grobler has said, the EU welcomed President Mbeki’s Facilitation as the only game in town.  I think that everyone should concentrate on supporting the AU decision to assist the Zimbabweans, following the MoU to get on with their work.  Let us stop having outside interference.  That is our consistent view – the Zimbabweans are meeting, let them meet and sort out what they want for their future and let us and the international community support them.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

27 July 2008

 

 

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