Transcript Copy: Notes Following Briefing to Media by Foreign Affairs Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba
Thank you colleagues; this will largely be some information about some of the important meetings that we will be attending over the next few days.
President Kgalema Motlanthe to Hold Discussions with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
Firstly the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon will be visiting South Africa from the 24-26 February. This is a follow up to a brief discussion; brief encounter that the Secretary General had with President Motlanthe during the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in which he then expressed the wish to visit South Africa to have further discussion on a wide range of issues. Of course the President agreed and these are the dates that have been suggested by them.
The discussions will involve largely issues around hot spots on the continent in particular Zimbabwe, the DRC, Sudan, Somalia and the issues in Madagascar. We also have indications that the Secretary General would like to exchange some ideas with respect to the financial crisis as part of his gathering some thoughts in preparation for the April 2nd meeting that will be held in London that is a follow-up to the Washington meeting.
He will also discuss issues related to climate change. Obviously the focus will be on how to ensure that the Copenhagen meeting in December this year delivers something that is concrete.
He will also want to exchange ideas on – as you know there will be the Durban review conference which is the follow up to the World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and Other Related Intolerances that South Africa hosted in Durban – this meeting will be held in Geneva from the 20-24 April. South Africa is a country that is seen to have a major role to play in that meeting.
There will also be some exchange of ideas on how to give momentum to the process of the UN reform and in particular the reform of the UN Security Council.
As you can pick up from that agenda the President will be assisted by the Minsters of Foreign Affairs; Finance and Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
Indications are that the meetings will take place here in Pretoria.
Minister Dlamini Zuma holds Discussions with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa
Today, you might have picked up already that the Minister hosted her counterpart from Mexico Patricia Espinosa. This is a follow up meeting aimed largely at strengthening our relations with Mexico. We have taken a conscious decision on both sides to strengthen the levels of engagement as a result of the growing importance of South America generally to our foreign policy. Mexico is a key party to that. As you would recall the Minister recently hosted her counterpart from Argentina – this is part of that effort.
Also importantly now is that Mexico and South Africa interacted within the context of the +5 countries that are regularly invited to the G-8. So our leaders, when they met in Tokyo last year, indicated that we needed to firm up and structure a significant bilateral interaction. Mexico is also a member of the UN Security Council now so there will be an exchange of ideas related to that.
During this visit there was also a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding Establishing a Bi-National Commission (BNC) and an Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. That is what the meeting was about.
Minister Dlamini Zuma holds Discussions with Sudanese Counterpart
We also have a meeting that is taking place tomorrow. Minister Dlamini Zuma is hosting her counterpart from Sudan Dr Deng Alor Kuol. As you know the Foreign Minister of Sudan is more from the SPLM party and he is the Foreign Minster of the Unity Government in Khartoum.
South Africa has a Joint Bilateral Commission (JBC) with Sudan which operates both at Ministerial and Senior Officials’ level. The last session of the JBC took place on the 7th-9th of June last year in Khartoum. Also last year, as part of our engagement with Sudan, we did respond to the humanitarian situation in Abyei there. We also have a huge programme that we are having with the government of Southern Sudan which is around capacity building and a number of activities have taken place.
In the past we have spoken about that cooperation largely with respect to the government of the South but there is also structured cooperation with the Unity Government particularly in the area of police services and on legal and Parliamentary affairs.
We are engaging Sudan both within the context of strengthening bilateral relations but bear in mind that we are also the lead country for the AU on the issues of post-conflict reconstruction in the Sudan. So the Minister will also try to assess the reading from the Sudanese government as to where they think we are with respect to some of these challenges.
Obviously on our side we will be holding these discussions against the backdrop of the anxiety we have that 2011 is coming pretty soon around the referendum and therefore just to get full appreciation from the Sudanese about how far they think the process is and whether we have got realistic prospects of making sure that that process hopefully leads to a united Sudan. That is our position although we have always said that in line with the agreement that was reached we would respect whatever the outcomes of that process.
In the context of the discussions I think issues around the ICC will come out. I think last time we did think about those.
With respect to Zimbabwe I think the important thing is that there will be a meeting in Cape Town tomorrow; there will be a Zimbabwean delegation led by the new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who will be accompanied by the Foreign Minister Simbarashe S Mumbengegwi and the Finance Minister Tendai Biti. The corresponding counterparts from South African side will also be attending the meeting.
The meeting will obviously have some of the senior officials. For now I think all we can say is that the meeting would be in the context of how now to address the issues around the reconstruction of Zimbabwe. That will really be the focus of the meeting. Details with respect to that will emerge after the meeting.
We will be approaching this meeting against the backdrop of the successful achievement to a large extend of the implementation of the Road Map that was agreed upon by the Extra-Ordinary Summit that was held here on the 26th of January. Our sense is that there is good progress – I myself have returned yesterday; I was in Zimbabwe Tuesday and Wednesday and as I said in the past; we will continue to keep an eye with a view of lending whatever support as South Africa. One of the areas that we are beginning to discuss with our Zimbabwean colleagues is to implement the decision of our Cabinet Lekgotla of July last year which said the Department of Foreign Affairs, leading the International Relations cluster must make sure that within a relatively short space of time after the formation of the Unity Government we should be able to facilitate the meeting of the Joint Cooperation Commission between South Africa and Zimbabwe. We are working out the mechanics of that. Ideally we would have wanted to do that within a period of a month to six weeks but we know that will be the electoral calendar in South Africa. So we are discussing with the Zimbabwean colleagues and I am sure the meeting tomorrow will help give structure and content to what will have to be pursued in the framework of the JCC.
Apart from that we are hoping that the current arrangement, the Unity Government will stand the many trials quiet clearly that it is going to face and many difficulties that lie ahead. But certainly from our region we are a bit encouraged by both the discussions that took place in the Zimbabwean Parliament with respect to the Budget and the Medium Term Budget Statement that were delivered end of January; by the resounding support for the Amendment 19 and, whatever hick-ups along the way, by the implementation of the Road Map coming from the SADC Extra-Ordinary Summit.
Situation in the Middle East
We are following very closely the situation in the Middle East following the inconclusive electoral results in Israel. Of course we are worried about what seem the prospects of a hung Parliament and probably the prospects that both Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu – whoever is finally asked to constitute a government – that is quiet clear that it is not going to be an easy path and of course we know that it is going to have significant impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So we are following that very closely and we hope whatever comes out of that will help advance peace.
South Africa to Host SADC Council of Ministers
We will host also the statutory SADC Council of Ministers in Cape Town. The Council of Ministers itself will start from the 25th-27th February and it will be preceded by a whole range of statutory meetings; meetings of senior officials and over the weekend the meeting of the finance committee of SADC.
The items that will receive attention there will include SADC response to deliberations that took place in Uganda last year between SADC, COMESA and EAC tripartite. One of the key conclusions from that meeting was the establishment of the tripartite FTA and there were also benchmarks about studies to be undertaken which will lead to the Ministers of integration and trade meetings some time early in the second part of the year to look at the practical steps that have to be taken to implement that FTA.
So this will afford SADC to reflect on that and probably to craft a common position of approach to that.
One of the areas that will be looked at is the progress in the implementation of the Univisa. As you know the Univisa project is very important for us with respect to facilitating movement to our countries specifically with respect to both the Confederations Cup but more importantly the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup so that indeed there would be a sense that the entire region was involved in the activities around that.
There will also be some organisational issues around the strengthening of the Secretariat to better meet the challenges that our region is facing.
There will obviously be a discussion on the financial crisis and what the regional approach should be. As you may recall even though this is not a mandated position but our Minister of Finance would obviously have a keen interest in getting some say from his colleagues with respect to his participation in the G-20 meeting on the 2nd of April.
The other issue will be the SADC response to the Zimbabwe situation. You will recall that during the Summit in Lusaka some time back a decision was taken, which obviously could not progress, for the Finance Ministers to put their heads together with the view to look at what package of interventions would help speed up the process of dealing with the issues in Zimbabwe.
Deputy President Mbete to Lead SA Delegation to the SA-Nigeria BNC Review Meeting
The Deputy President of the Republic Baleka Mbete will be leading a delegation for the review meeting of the South Africa-Nigeria Bi-National Commission (BNC) on the 24th February in Abuja. We have spoken before about the importance of that relationship with Nigeria to South Africa.
Questions and Answers
Question: Can you tell us if you are concerned that there are still detainees in Zimbabwe including Jestina Mukoko and several others that have not been released? Whether you discussed that issue when you were there? Our President has already said on record that he does not really believe very much in these charges of sabotage and training in Botswana and so on.
Answer: Obviously one would have enquired because of the discussions in Zimbabwe and obviously we would be enquiring from our standpoint that these issues pose the risk of derailing the process. I would imagine that the issue of Zimbabwe will be discussed in the Council of Ministers as I indicated. From a regional perspective I am sure these issues will come out. I am sure there will be an expectation from the Zimbabwean colleagues to give us their own assessment of where things are.
But I must say the impression that I got in Zimbabwe is that yes these are problems; they are actually being attended to and I do know they were the subject of discussion within the JOMIC and we were assured that between the President and the Prime Minister there were discussions taking place around this issue.
I think for us that for now was enough because in a sense we got a sense that yes there are discussions and hopefully they will be concluded and we will get an outcome that does not derail the process.
Question: Can you tell us more about the agenda of the meeting of the Socialist International Commission for Sustainable Communities in Cape Town on 2 March.
Answer: As you know the Socialist International Commission meets virtually on an annual basis and the focus this year as we understand will be largely around the issues related to climate change. I am sure there will also be discussions on the financial crisis.
What they tend to do is to request different countries at particular times to host them. An official request was indeed made to our President and South Africa agreed so we will be playing host. This meeting will be in Cape Town, I think in Kleinmond on the 2nd March.
Normally the hosting Head of State is free to participate and we know that there will be an address made by our President. We do not know whether he will participate for the duration of the meeting but Minister Dlamini Zuma is a member of that commission and she will be participating in those activities
Question: Regarding the meeting with the Zimbabwe delegation in Cape Town tomorrow, is it possible to tell us more that you did? Will South Africa be outlining what form support to Zimbabwe is going to take?
Answer: No I am unable to give more information because the meeting was requested by the Zimbabwean side and for the time being I am not privy to the content of what they would be specifically making their representation on. All we know is that we have been informed who the members of the delegations are.
Question: Do you have an idea when the ICC is going to make a ruling on whether they are going to indict al-Bashir?
Answer: The information we have got is that we should expect it before the end of February. That is all we have.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X 152
19 February 2009