Introductory Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim on the occasion of a meeting with HE Excellency, Mr Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pretoria, 14 May 2012

Your Excellency, Mr Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Mr Mohammad Faraji, Ambassador-designate of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Pretoria
Officials from the Governments of Iran and of South Africa

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be able to welcome you to South Africa for your first visit as the Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs of Iran. Even though you have served in your position for some time now, I wish to extend to you my congratulations on your appointment and to indicate that I look forward to cooperate with you to ensure that relations between our two countries are strengthened. At the same time, I would appreciate it if you would be so kind to convey my best wishes to your predecessor, Dr Hadi Solaimanpour, who visited South Africa in March 2011 and with whom I had been able to have very interesting and fruitful discussions.

I would also like to welcome your new Ambassador, Mr Mohammad Faraji, to South Africa. I know that he is still very new and has not had the opportunity to present his credentials to our President, but I know that he has already interacted with officials from my Department on several occasions.

Your Excellency, South Africa recognises that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a pivotal and influential player in its region. Your country has a rich history and a vibrant culture. It has a large and growing economy and possesses skills and expertise that could influence the countries around it - and even beyond - in a very positive manner. Iran is also one of the world’s largest sources of energy, be this crude oil or gas. We are aware of all these factors and also remember the support that Iran had provided to the people of South Africa in their struggle against Apartheid. For these reasons, my Government places great importance on its relationship with Iran.

I hope that we would be able to discuss ways in which South Africa and Iran could collaborate in order to strengthen not only their bilateral relations, but to enhance collaboration in other multilateral areas as well. However, we also have to recognise the constraints that we are faced with in the current international environment. While we are interested in strengthening our relations with Iran, also in the economic field, it has become increasingly difficult to do so due to sanctions that have been imposed on your country. Many of these are admittedly of a unilateral nature, but the impact on South Africa’s economy of not complying with them is so severe that we feel we have little room for manoeuvre. We are not in agreement with the way in which some countries had imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran, but we are faced with a reality that we have to deal with. To ignore them would be irresponsible and I would therefore be interested to hear from you about the steps that your Government was taking to address these issues.

Your Excellency, we have provided your Embassy with a draft agenda last week, containing the issues that we would like to discuss today. I would like to provide you with an opportunity to make a few opening remarks and would then be interested in your views on recent developments in Iran, particularly leading up to your Presidential elections next year, as well as your immediate region. I will allow you to decide which issues you would like to cover, but you will agree that Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria are particularly topical at the moment and I would be interested in your views on developments in those countries.

I would then be pleased to provide you with our views on developments in our own country and the remainder of the African continent, following which we could listen to you on the latest developments related to Iran’s nuclear programme. On bilateral issues, we could cover a range of matters, but I wish to refer specifically to energy, since our Minister of Energy had been to Iran recently. We tried to arrange a meeting for you with the Minister, but she is regrettably not in Pretoria this week. I have therefore requested Mr Maqubela, who is the Deputy Director-General for Hydrocarbons and Energy Planning at the Department of Energy, to form part of this meeting. He travelled with his Minister to Iran and is well versed on relations between South Africa and Iran in the energy field.

Your Excellency, if you are in agreement with this proposed approach, I would like to invite you to make a few opening remarks.

I thank you

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