Media Briefing Statement by International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister, Marius Fransman, on Current Affairs, Cape Town, 15 March 2011
Dear colleagues in Cape Town and Pretoria
Thank you very much for joining us.
Today we are going to give you an update on a working visit to the US by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe; the outcome of the AU High Level Panel and political developments in Libya.
DEPUTY PRESIDENT MOTLANTHE’S WORKING VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On 27 -31 March 2011, Deputy President, H.E. Kgalema Motlanthe, will be undertaking a Working Visit to the United States of America, which will include visits to Washington, New York and Chicago.
This visit takes place upon the invitation of US Vice-President, H.E. Joseph Biden, who visited South Africa in June 2010 to attend the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup and during which he was hosted by the Deputy President for a bilateral meeting.
Bilateral relations with the US have been steadily on the rise. This has been marked by a significant increase in regular high level interactions that have taken place between President Zuma and President Obama, Deputy President Motlanthe and Vice President Biden, as well as the two Foreign Ministers who recently met in December 2010 for the inaugural Strategic Dialogue which took place in Washington D.C.
The purpose of this visit will therefore be to promote bilateral political and economic relations with the US, in support of South Africa’s domestic priorities and foreign policy objectives, building further on the momentum that has been established.
The core objectives of the Deputy President’s visit are as follows:
- To promote bilateral political relations through discussions on key issues of importance and mutual interest including: Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, AGOA, Peace-Keeping, Haiti, Egypt, the Middle East Peace Process, BRICS, and Climate Change (COP 17);
- To promote bilateral trade and investment relations;
- To explore policy options and tools in the utilisation of the agricultural sector as a major driver of economic development and job creation, as well as rural development in the context of the Government’s New Growth Path; and,
- To facilitate opportunities for knowledge transfer and capacity building for South African stakeholders in the agricultural sector, the “green economy”, and other identified skills deficit sectors (as identified by the Human Resources and Development Council).
The two countries enjoy cordial relations with a high level of visits and interactions characterising relations and invoking necessary political will to achieve more concrete cooperation in the SA government’s identified key priority areas and issues of mutual concern.
The first Strategic Dialogue meeting, as I indicated earlier, between Minister Nkoana-Mashabane and US Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton, took place in Washington DC during December 2010, achievements of the respective working groups established under the Annual Bilateral Forum were reviewed during the meeting and issues of mutual interest and concern were discussed during the meeting.
One of the major highlights in SA-US relations is the identification and support by the US government of SA’s domestic priorities and aligning them to US’s assistance programmes. In this regard, cooperation exists in the areas of health through the PEPFAR Programme and police training.
Bilateral trade relations between both countries continue to grow in leaps and bounds despite a decline from R124 billion in 2008 to just R82 billion in 2009, which reflected a drop of 34%, due to the global economic and financial crisis.
Cote d’Ivoire (AU HIGH LEVEL PANEL)
As violence and conditions worsen in Cote d’Ivoire as political impasse continues, the African Union (AU) and its international partners have dispatched numerous mediation missions to Abidjan with intent to find speedy resolution of the crisis with no positive results.
In light of the above, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, at its 263rd meeting held on 28 February 2011, on the situation in Cote d’Ivoire and the activities of the AU High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in Cote d’Ivoire saw the need for the Panel to have supplementary time to accomplish its mandate. It is against this background that the AU extended the mandate of the High Level Panel to allow it to pursue and complete, within the month of March 2011, its mandate to formulate, on the basis of the relevant AU and ECOWAS decisions, a comprehensive political solution and submit to the Ivorian parties proposals for a way out of the crisis, as well as to report thereafter on its work to a meeting of Council to be held, as soon as possible, at the level of Heads of State and Government.
Following the High Level Panel meeting that was held in Mauritania, on 04 March 2011, the Panel noted with deep concern the tragic evolution of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, in particular the increasing number of losses of human lives, as well as the escalation of the spirit of confrontation. The Panel reiterated AU’s urgent appeal to the Ivorian parties to show utmost restraint, refrain from acts and steps likely to undermine the ongoing mediation efforts, including the media campaigns inciting hatred and violence.
The Panel also called for an immediate end to killings and abuses that led to the loss of human lives, as well as demonstrations, marches and other activities likely to degenerate into disturbances and violence. It urged the parties to cease all forms of hostilities, and to lift the blockade of the Gulf Hotel.
The Panel will convene its next meeting, as soon as possible, in order to conclude the mandate entrusted to it by the Peace and Security Council. The Panel invited leaders, Alassane Dramane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo, as well as the Chairman of the Constitutional Council of Côte d’Ivoire to participate in that meeting. Further to this meeting, the Panel is expected to submit a report on its activities and the results achieved.
Due to the escalation of violence in Cote d’Ivoire, the United Nations has begun sending in approximately 2,000 more peacekeeping troops to the existing force of 8,000 “blue helmets” along with three attack helicopters in order to protect civilians in the face of further violence that could spiral into a bloody civil war.
South African Government continues to support the regional and sub-regional initiatives aimed at the speedy resolution of the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. South Africa should strive to strengthen the partnership between the AU/UN and ECOWAS in finding an amicable solution to the impasse which would reflect the democratic will of the Ivoirians.
CURRENT POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN LIBYA
Libyan army units and pro-regime forces continue to use air strikes and heavy artillery, pushing a fierce offensive against the rebels and have driven them out of several cities and towns along the coast.
France and Britain are considering a draft resolution for a no-fly zone over Libya, even though there remain disagreements over military intervention.
Arab League supports a no-fly zone over Libya and has suspended Libya’s participation at the forum. The Gulf Co-operation Council also supports a no-fly zone.
IBSA partners have expressed their aversion to the move by some western countries to impose a military solution to the conflict in Libya.
The conflict in Libya is taking on the character of a civil war as Muammar Gaddafi’s regime recovers from its earlier reversals and consolidates its forces.
The Arab League has urged the United Nations Security Council to take steps to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to ground Gaddafi's warplanes.
The AU's Peace and Security Council met on 10 March 2011 in Ethiopia and decided to establish a high-level committee to mediate in the Libyan conflict. The members of the committee are Presidents of the Republic of South Africa, Mauritania, Congo, Mali and Uganda.
Retreating rebel forces are complaining about the lack of concrete support from foreign governments, and fear further assaults from the Libyan army units and pro-regime forces.
South Africa supports the AU position calling for the immediate end of air strikes and other hostilities, the cooperation of the competent Libyan authorities to facilitate the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy population and the adoption and implementation of the political reforms necessary for the elimination of the cause of the current conflict.
The South Africa Government continues to monitor the deteriorating security situation and calls on all parties involved to bring to a halt, all acts of violence in order to prevent further loss of life.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane will lead a South African delegation to attend an informal Ministerial Meeting, hosted by Minister Patricia Espinosa, as President of COP16/CMP6, on 23 and 24 March 2011. Minister Nkoana-Mashabane is invited as incoming COP President, as South Africa will host COP17/CMP7 in Durban from 28 November to 9 December 2011. In the run-up to COP17/CMP7, South Africa will engage in consultations with all key players in order to find consensus for COP17/CMP7.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
The South African delegation to the Sixteenth Session of the Human Rights Council has noted with concern the misinformation campaign about the role of South Africa with regards to the draft statement by certain countries on a joint statement on ending violence and related human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador J. Matjila takes this opportunity to formally inform that South Africa supports ending violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. South Africa views this issue seriously from the standpoint that the South African Constitution addresses the issue of sexual orientation, especially as one of the grounds of discrimination. It is this Constitutional imperative that obliged South Africa to vote for the inclusion of the references to sexual orientation in resolution related to Extra judiciary Killings, which was adopted recently by the UN General Assembly in New York in December 2010.
In the light of the importance of this issue, South Africa has decided to take a leading role of proposing an intergovernmental process that will provide a vision to take the issue of sexual orientation forward. This issue is currently being discussed with the African Group to encourage the broad consensus towards an open, inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process that will address the issue directly. South Africa has chosen this approach as a demonstration of its commitment to ending violence against all human beings, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The discussions are still continuing in Geneva and South Africa will not depart from its Constitution. The delegation is seized with the matter.
HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO JAPAN: LATEST STATUS
Further to the media statement by President Zuma on Friday 11 March 2011 conveying the condolences of the South African Government and people to the Government and people of Japan and indicating that South Africa stands ready to assist within its limited resources, the following:
The Embassy of Japan yesterday 14 March 2011 agreed to send a request to the Office of the Prime Minister requesting approval for the Rescue South Africa mission to be permitted to participate in the humanitarian relief operation. Rescue South Africa has chartered an aircraft and its team of urban search and rescue experts, volunteers drawn from the municipalities and Provinces, with all of their specialised equipment, - including ant-radiation equipment – is ready to depart as soon as the approval is received from the Embassy of Japan and as soon as over flight clearances have been granted by the various authorities over whose territories the aircraft will fly (there were requested by the Department yesterday afternoon).
The Department is supportive of all humanitarian efforts by South Africans that will contribute to the alleviation of the humanitarian disaster in Japan. Other South African organisations currently preparing to contribute their help include the Gift of the Givers Foundation; and the Al Im Dadd Foundation.
The South African Embassy in Japan is evacuating ten South African English teachers, who are participating in a Japanese government programme, JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) from Sendia to Tokyo. Accommodation will be provided until such time as clarity is reached on the nuclear contamination situation.
I thank you.