Media Statement

22 March 2012

Briefing on International Relations Matters

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, welcome to our briefing on current affairs matters in the international relations environment. Today we will focus on (1) Developments in Mali, (2) matters pertaining to the AU Peace and Security Council, (3) the upcoming BRICS Summit, to be held in India, (4) preparations for the AU Summit in Malawi and (5) the situation in Syria.

1. Developments in Mali

The African Union has released a statement condemning the unrest in Mali which is being perpetrated by some elements within the Malian armed forces.

South Africa condemns any attempt to seize power through the use of force. We reiterate our conviction that no party should come to power through unlawful means.  

South Africa remains concerned about the ongoing attacks in Northern Mali carried out by the secessionist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), especially their impact on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region. 

It is our desire that the mutiny is addressed in a manner that does not jeopardise the overall security situation in Mali. This is particularly important in view of the security challenges in the North.

We call on the rebel group (especially the NMLA) to immediately cease hostilities and on Government forces to maintain discipline and resolve their internal concerns in a peaceful manner and through internal procedures.

In particular, senior military officers and political leaders being held hostage should be released immediately as an indication that the mutineers have the best intentions for the country and the army. The media should also be allowed to resume broadcasting to ensure calm and reassure citizens throughout the country.

We support the AU’s determination to support mediation efforts in search for solution to the situation. It is critical that the various security and humanitarian issues confronting Mali are resolved urgently in order to enable the April 2012 elections to be held freely and fairly.

The South African Embassy in Bamako is closed, but all our staff members are currently safe.

2. AU Peace and Security Council

South Africa will be ending its current term in the PSC Council on 01 April 2012. In line with the principle of rotation amongst members of the Southern Region, South Africa will be making way for two of its neighbours to also make a contribution to this important organ of our Union. Notwithstanding this, we however stand ready at all times and available to continue making our humble contribution to the resolution of peace and security challenges on our Continent.

South Africa has taken heed of the call made by four countries of the Sahel region in the wake of the humanitarian crisis currently facing a number of countries in the following areas: (1) the natural phenomena - including but not limited to drought, floods, failed crops and devastating pests outbreaks and (2) the socio-political developments – the recent political developments in the Maghreb and attendant problems it has created in neighbouring countries, conflict in the region, internally displaced persons, food insecurity, chronic malnutrition, as well as proliferation of arms.

When the four Sahelian States - Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad -- approached South Africa for assistance at a bilateral level, our country considered three possible options for immediate relief of these needs and the fuller details and the actual amounts, humble as they may be, that we are contributing on the immediate in these four countries, this information would have to be shared with the respective countries.

We have undertaken to (1) donate the requested products and materials that were directly requested by these countries; (2) to contribute to the multilateral donor programmes, especially those directly involved in this crisis, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the FAO, and also the South African NGO called the Gift of the Givers, in addition to the initial input that South Africa will make to these countries, and (3) make a direct financial donation to the requesting governments with a suggestion that the funds be pooled with inputs from other donor sources relating to the emergency plan.

The recent ministerial meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council considered a report which exhaustively outlined the challenges faced within the Sahel region and the ongoing initiatives to mitigate these challenges. South Africa believes that a multifaceted approach is required to address aspects relating particularly to security, development, governance and humanitarian support.

This multifaceted approach must also focus on the proliferation of arms, the threat posed by terrorism and transnational organised crime, as well as drug trafficking and human smuggling. The plight of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons must also be prioritised.

3. Fourth BRICS Summit, Delhi, India

The 4th BRICS Summit will take place on 28-29 March 2012 in Delhi, India.  This will be the second time that South Africa attends the Summit after its admission to the bloc. South Africa’s debut was at the BRICS Summit held in Sanya, Hainan Island, China, in 2011.

The BRICS Summit will focus on global governance as well as sustainable development matters. These include issues relating to the global economy, global peace and security and climate change, for example.

South Africa will take advantage of the BRICS Summit to advance the African Agenda, to seek support from BRICS partners for the NEPAD infrastructure development and industrialisation initiatives and advocate for reform of global governance institutions.

Figures released in September 2011 by the World Bank and the IMF World Economic Outlook indicate that BRICS countries have a combined population of 2,945.4 billion people.

Latest figures indicate that South Africa’s trade with BRICS countries has increased, particularly from the period 2005 to 2010.  Exports increased from 16,6bn in 2005 to 94,7bn in 2010. BRIC-Africa trade is projected to increase threefold from US$150bn in 2010 to US$350bn in 2015. BRIC Foreign Direct Investment is projected to increase from US$60bn in 2009 to more than US$150bn by 2015.

President Jacob Zuma will lead the South African delegation to the Summit and will be accompanied by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, a business delegation and senior government officials.

4. Preparations for AU Summit in Malawi

President Jacob Zuma recently led a delegation to the African Union Heads of State and Government Ad-Hoc Committee meeting held in Cotonou, Benin. Committee was formed following the inconclusive voting process for new African Union Commissioners at the 18th Ordinary Session held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2012.

The Committee comprises of one Member State from each Region (Algeria-North, Angola-Southern, Chad-Central, Côte d'Ivoire-West and Ethiopia-East), together with Benin as the Chairperson of the African Union. South Africa and Gabon also form part of the Committee as they are the two countries that fielded candidates for the position of the AU Chairperson.

There is an ongoing discussion on the possibility of adopting a rotation policy for the election of AU office bearers, particularly office bearers in the AU Commission, including the candidates for chairperson. This matter is still being considered.

Since the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity 49 years ago and later the AU, the Southern Region has never been represented at the level of the AU Commission Chairperson.

5. The situation in Syria

South Africa has consistently expressed its deep concern about the deteriorating political, security, socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Syria. The situation continues to escalate despite calls from the international community for the Syrian Government and the armed opposition to stop the violence and settle their differences in a peaceful manner.

We condemn the violent loss of life in Syria and call for maximum restraint from all the parties to the conflict. We urge the parties to immediately stop the violence and commit themselves to finding a peaceful political solution, through a Syrian-led and owned, transparent and all-inclusive political process that will fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.

Among others, the political process should ensure the guarantee of the people's fundamental political rights and freedoms and restore the people's dignity through the delivery of democracy, political reform, justice, human rights and socio-economic development. We believe that such a solution will ensure long-term peace and stability.

South Africa welcomes and supports the appointment of Mr Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy and also welcomes the strong support expressed by the Security Council for his efforts.

Even though the UN General Assembly mandated the appointment of a Joint Special Envoy, the Security Council should remain ceased with the matter, because ultimately any UN deployment will have to be mandated by the Security Council.

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