Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mshabane, on international developments, with specific focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament, Cape Town, 20 November 2012

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media,

In our briefing today, we will focus on (1) the escalating violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, with emphasis on the conflict in Gaza, (2) South Africa’s hosting of the 5th BRICS Summit in March 2013 and, lastly, (3) the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

1. Conflict between Israel and Palestine

The South African Government is gravely concerned at the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza. We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government, which has resulted in a significant number of deaths and injuries on both sides, particularly among Palestinian civilians, including children.

The South African Government calls on both sides to immediately halt all cross border attacks and agree to a ceasefire.  Israeli air and naval forces must cease their airstrikes and shelling into the Gaza enclave, which has already caused considerable material destruction in one of the most densely inhabited places on earth. We also call upon Palestinian militants in Gaza to immediately suspend the firing of rockets into Israeli territory.

An ominous development is the decision by the Israeli Government to call up 75 000 military reservists to active service, which would seem to imply that a large- scale ground assault by the Israeli army into Gaza is being seriously contemplated. The South African Government accordingly appeals to the Government of Israel to refrain from such a fatal step, which will not only result in the inevitable loss of a large number of both Palestinian and Israelis lives - but also further inflame sentiments in an already volatile region.

At the heart of the conflict lies Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, especially the continuing blockade of Gaza. The South African Government therefore urges the Israeli Government to halt these policies as they are an obstacle to negotiations for peace and contrary to international law.

The South African Government further calls on the international community to put pressure on both Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza to halt this escalation of violence, given that as close neighbours, they have no choice but to accept each other’s permanent presence and eventually reach agreement on peaceful co-existence through a process of negotiations, rather than through continuous conflict. 

2. SA’s hosting of the 5th BRICS Summit

As some of you may already be aware, South Africa will host the 5th Summit of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Leaders’ Forum in March 2013 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province.

BRICS is a platform for dialogue and cooperation amongst countries that represent 43% of the world's population. The platform strives to promote peace, security and development in a world that is multi-polar, inter-dependent, increasingly complex and globalizing. The BRICS formation is transcontinental, covering Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.

Our combined nominal gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated at US$13,7 trillion and between 20% and 25% of global GDP, as well as combined foreign reserves estimated at US$4 trillion. BRICS accounted for approximately 11% of global annual foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in 2012 (US$465 billion) and 17% of world trade.

South Africa’s participation in the BRICS is designed to help us achieve inclusive growth, sustainable development and prosperity.

As you may know, the proposed theme of the 5th BRICS Summit is “BRICS and Africa –Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation.”

In choosing this theme, South Africa looks forward to sharing this event with the continent as the BRICS Forum provides enormous opportunities for economic growth and development in Africa.

South Africa and its fellow BRICS partners share a common vision. Like South Africa, our fellow BRICS nations are striving to enhance inclusive economic growth that will lead to an increase in the creation of decent and sustainable jobs, advance the fight against poverty and accelerate the economic transformation of our countries. We also work towards a more equitable global political and economic system.

3. COP18/CMP8 Conference

In my capacity as President of the 17th Session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP17/CMP7), I will, in the next couple of days, lead a delegation to Doha, Qatar, for the COP18/CMP8 Conference. The Conference is scheduled to take place from 26 November to 07 December 2012.

Other members of the delegation include the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, and the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi.

As we hand over to Qatar, it is important that we remind ourselves of the achievements that were recorded in Durban, which are comprehensively documented in the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

The decisions taken in Durban are truly historical and include the following:

(i) The amendment of the Kyoto Protocol;
(ii) Decisions of the Long-Term Cooperative Action (LCA);
(iii) The Green Climate Fund;
(iv) The future of the Climate Change Regime.

It is important that the Conference in Doha moves the negotiations forward, while ensuring that environmental integrity and credibility of the process can be maintained and that the outcomes of COP17/CMP7 are implemented.

The first is the closure of the Ad hoc Working Group –Long term Cooperative Action, as agreed to in Durban. This should entail the adequate treatment of unresolved political issues, as well as comparability of effort by those countries who are not party to the Kyoto Protocol. 

In the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol, South Africa will be working towards the adoption of the amendment to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol, which will establish the second commitment period. In the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, South Africa will pursue the adoption of a plan of work to enhance ambition, not only in mitigation but also in adaptation and in the means of implementation as well.

Though at different stages of maturity, it is vital that progress is made in all three ad hoc working groups to ensure that the outcome in Doha is balanced and successful.

Thank you.


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