Welcoming Remarks by International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim at the Roundtable Discussion on “Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development: The Role of Reconciliation in Nation Building” hosted by the Policy, Research and Analysis Unit (PRAU), Monday, 4 June 2012
Your Excellency, Hisham Al-Alawi, Ambassador of Iraq to South Africa,
The Honourable Head and Members of the Iraqi Reconciliation Committee, the Iraq Disarmament, Demobilization and Reconciliation Unit and the Iraq Council of Representatives,
The Honourable Head and members of the IOM delegation of both Iraq and South Africa,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen
Iraq and South Africa share historic bonds that are echoed in our histories of struggle against injustice, oppression and sustained loss due to strife and international wars of avarice. Our current bonds are also reflected in the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1998. For the past year, these bonds have been strengthened, both politically and economically. Not only were such relations given a new beginning by the accreditation to the Republic of South Africa of H.E. Hisham Al-Alawi, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq, in June 2012, but there has also been an increase in interactions between the respective Foreign Ministries which have paved the way for the exploration of other areas of cooperation.
Already, there has been significant interaction between Iraq and some South African companies interested to cooperate with Iraq in the area of de-mining. It is anticipated that this interest will develop into a mutually beneficial relationship in defence cooperation.
Soon we will also welcome an Iraqi delegation, led by the Minister of Trade of the Republic of Iraq, to South Africa for the purpose of signing the Bilateral Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the two countries. This Agreement will improve trade and investment relations between South Africa and Iraq. In addition, South Africa is in the process of negotiating a MoU on Bilateral Consultations with Iraq, aimed to further deepen ties between both countries through our respective Departments of Foreign Affairs and of International Relations and Cooperation.
South Africa therefore wishes to further improve existing bilateral relations through the recently launched draft text of the MoU on Bilateral Consultations, which provides scope for increased cooperation on the political, economic, educational, environmental, defence and cultural levels.
Overall, these Agreements and MoUs will provide an opportunity for South Africa to invest in Iraq, but at the same time, they will also provide an enabling framework for Iraqi businesses to invest in South Africa and to develop sustainable partnerships with their counterparts.
It is in this context that I would like to welcome the Iraq study tour group to South Africa as part of Iraq’s initiative to learn from South Africa’s experience in national reconciliation as well as in demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration. This interaction illustrates that both countries share common visions for peace and stability as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts. With this, I would like to reiterate that South Africa supports the Government of Iraq in its endeavors at promoting democracy, national reconciliation and national unity.
South Africa believes that with national reconciliation and unity, Iraq will be on a path to socio-economic recovery and prosperity.
South Africa has also taken note of the improvement of the overall security situation in the country and it is against this background that our two countries are engaging each other in order to further strengthen our relations.
We trust, therefore, that your visit to our country will bear fruit and allow you to extract the valuable lessons and knowledge of South Africa’s experience in national reconciliation and the process of building democratic institutions. We also wish that our experiences in DDR will enable you to take back ideas on how to proceed with an Iraqi program on demobilization, disarmament and reintegration. We hope that you can take these lessons to Iraq and apply them in an Iraqi context, which I am sure will benefit your country in the political as well as socio-economic spheres. We, on the other hand, believe that this interaction will benefit our understanding of Iraq and further enrich our future interaction.
I therefore wish to bid you a warm Welcome to South Africa and to our International Relations and Cooperation Headquarters!
I wish you successful deliberations and a departure that would leave fond and lasting memories.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation
460 Soutpansberg Rd
OR Tambo Building