Opening Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim I Ebrahim on the occasion of the Bilateral Meeting with Mr Henry Bellingham, UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for Africa, Pretoria, 19 July 2012

Minister Bellingham, it gives me a great pleasure to welcome you to South Africa. We are privileged indeed to have you in our midst and look forward to sharing and exchanging views as we engage on bilateral and multilateral issues.

South Africa values its bilateral relations with the UK which have grown into a strategic partnership, positively impacting our work as we seek to create and build a better and peaceful world.   While we may have differences of opinion and approach on some issues, we agree on the same vision on world peace and security.

We look forward to hosting the tenth session of the Bilateral Forum next year. The Bilateral Forum continues to be an important vehicle for the consolidation and expansion of relations between our countries. 

Our strategic relationship was highlighted by the State Visit of President Jacob Zuma in 2010, and the working visit of Deputy President Motlanthe later in the same year, as well as the visits to South Africa by Prime Minister Cameron in 2011 and by Foreign Secretary Hague earlier this year.  The visit by the Princess Royal for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in April reinforced our longstanding links, also within the context of the Commonwealth.  We believe that these high-level visits and people-to-people interaction will continue to grow.

The adoption of the SA-UK Strategy during the Bilateral Forum held last year in London, which serves as a blueprint for enhancing our already excellent relations, represents a significant achievement.  The Strategy’s clearly defined objectives will ensure that we will be able to report concrete results at our next Bilateral Forum meeting. 

Britain remains an important trading partner for us.  We continue to observe the rise in our bilateral trade and also in tourism.  We are committed to the objective of doubling trade by 2015.

Our discussions today will focus on the advancement of the African Agenda and we will share views on a number of African issues, such as Sudan and South Sudan, Zimbabwe, and the Arab Spring, notably Libya and Egypt.  We also look forward to exchanging views with you on the latest developments in Syria, where the continued violence and killing remain a major concern to us all.

We are also eager to exchange views with you on the longstanding issue of Iran and look forward to hearing your views on the latest developments, in particular with regard to the E3+3 engagement with Iran.

South Africa currently is the Deputy Chair of the Kimberley Process and will next year take over as Chair.  As you may be aware, Amb Welile Nhlapo, our Special Representative to the Great Lakes, will succeed US Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic as Chairperson.  The Kimberley Process has had a concrete and positive impact on the international diamond trade and it is of real significance to a number of African countries.  We also look forward to discuss proposals for reform of the KP with you.

As we work to enhance our relations, please allow me again thank you and your Government for your commitment to this working relationship, and for your continued investment in our friendship and the development of the African continent and its people.

The opening of the 2012 London Olympics will take place on Friday next week.  We are all looking forward to a magnificent Games.   Please allow us to wish you well in hosting this important event, and also the very best of luck to your team, which we hope to beat.

Once again, Minister Bellingham, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to South Africa.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa