Notes following a Briefing by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe and her Qatari Counter-Part, Mr Mohammed Al-Rumaihi, 04 February 2009, Cape Town
Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe
Firstly I welcomed His Excellency Assistant Minister Ramaihi here to South Africa for our first dialogue between Qatar and South Africa at this level. We have a very good relationship, diplomatically and politically between Qatar and South Africa. The discussions today focused on, among other things, the outcomes of the visit of the former President Mbeki to Qatar last year at the invitation of His Highness Amir of Qatar who had visited South Africa in 2002. During our discussions today we agreed to further strengthen our relationship and in particular our economic relationship. We discussed our interest in securing investments from Qatar. We discussed an invitation which we have extended to Qatari Chamber of Commerce to visit South Africa to explore some of these investment opportunities.
We also discussed cooperation in the areas of Health, Defence and Science and Technology. We have proposals for the Qatari government regarding participation and cooperation with our square kilometre area project. We are putting for that enormous telescope and we would like to look to the Qatari government for their expertise in the area of astronomy.
We also discussed energy issues, our company Sasol has a major joint venture with the Qatari company in regard to gas liquid issues and we discussed as well. We also had an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern on the African Continent including Somalia, Darfur a project in which the Qatari government is very involved. And we have also discussed Middle East and our respective approaches to the difficulties that the Middle Eastern countries particularly Israel and Palestine are facing at the moment.
So I think it is just to say we had well- rounded very in-depth discussions on all these issues. We have decided that we will carry on an annual basis to have these meetings at this level. So I think I could hand back to you to give a general round up of our discussions today.
Assistant Minister Al –Rumaihi
Thank you very much
The relations between South Africa and the State of Qatari are very important for both countries and the cooperation between the two governments is at very high level. We were very successful in the past with our economical project and in our cooperation at the international level. Today we discussed issues of high interest to both countries bilaterally and on multilateral level.
We discussed matters about the situation in Middle East, issues of United Nations, issues around Africa and issues of interest between the government of Qatar and government of South Africa especially at the level of Culture, Education, Trade, Science and Technology, as Her Excellency just clarified that we will carry on with our meetings on an annual basis and we will continue until our next meeting to make high progress on whatever we discussed today with our friends from the South African government
Deputy Minister what is your stance on Deputy Minister Hajaig’s comments, we spoke to the Jewish Board of Deputies yesterday and they have their own views on that. How do you respond to that?
Deputy Minister van Der Merwe
Deputy Minister Hajaig has unequivocally apologised for the statements that she made, but I think we should point out that we are here today really to hold discussions between the State of Qatar and the Republic of South Africa and that that is what we are going to be dealing with and other matters are for the other time.
Regarding the current global financial crisis which is beginning to shrink the international market, do you get any feeling that any stance could result in countries adopting protectionist kind of practices?
Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe
The question of the financial crisis did not really occur in our talks today, although all countries are obviously mindful of the situation we find ourselves in. For us as developing countries, it will have the impact of reducing our markets. As economies in the north shrink and as economies of our partners shrink we believe, though, that we have a strong economy in South Africa which is going to withstand these difficulties.
We are also fortunate in South Africa to have gold, platinum and other commodities that will bring in income for us and which will continue to be strong commodities today. Of course it is fair to say today that this crisis in the world will affect all of us in one way or another. The question is how do we deal with it in the context of our relationships with other countries. So this is one of the reasons we are engaging with countries such as Qatar who have very strong economy as well and why we believe it is important for us to keep engaging with countries with which we do business and to, in fact, even strengthen the base of our exports and the way we trade with other countries.
I mentioned the Sasol plant and the South African investments and we are also looking to the State of Qatar’s ability to invest in our own countries in various different areas of infrastructure and so on. So I don’t think it would be correct to for us to pretend that this crisis will not affect us. But obviously we have to work out ways in which to deal with it effectively so that we prevent and contain it to the minimum disruption of our growth plan.
Assistant Minister Al-Rumaihi
Just to say that the most important thing is how to react to the crisis. Actually we have the effect of the crisis in the markets and we see it in all nations. We are hoping to see these reforms at the international levels of the monetary rules as you know that since 1945 to date we are working within one system which is not applied 100 percent. Today we need to review if we need to make a correction on this financial system. This is one of the issues the Qatari government in future we will concentrate on and we will try to see the international level by creating meetings and conferences with high placed people and this matter and especially from the financial institutions to see what we can do in the future to face the crisis or resolve the problem.
To what extent will the financial crisis limit the Qatari investment to South Africa?
Assistant Minister Al-Rumaihi
Well our relationship with South Africa does not only go to investment but to cooperation and exchange and the market and we invest together in the gas project and that we sell to the rest of the world and it is a very demanded product so it is not necessarily affected by the crisis. We are looking forward to creating something like commodity between us especially at the petrochemical and gas market. This is a very important investment we still can do a lot between the two countries.