Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, on international developments, 21 June 2013, OR Tambo Building

Ladies and Gentleman,

Let me start by reiterating the heartfelt condolences extended by the South African Government on behalf of President Jacob Zuma and people of South Africa, following the disgraceful attack on the United Nations (UN) Common Compound in Mogadishu on 19 June 2013 that left 15 people killed including two South Africans.

In this regard, the South African Government also wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the Somali Armed Forces and the peacekeeping troops of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) who came to the assistance of those international development and humanitarian workers trapped in the UN compound during the attack.

It is tragic that the United Nations, the international organisation promoting peace, social and economic development and humanitarian assistance to the Somali Government and people of the country, has come under attack. South African is certain that the UN Office in Somalia will continue its sterling work from its base in Mogadishu in support of the Somali Government and people of the country despite this temporary setback.

The attack comes at a time when sound progress has been registered towards the establishment of stability, and sustainable social and economic development in Somalia and while the Somali Government remains in need of the support of the international community, including the UN.

The South African Government further urges all political groups outside the political process in Somalia to renounce violence and raise their concerns with the Federal Somali Government in a constructive and reconciliatory manner.

Looking at the developments in the Middle East Region, the South African government remains deeply concerned about the continuing violence and deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and we have constantly called on all the parties to the conflict to stop the violence as well as respect and protect the rights of the Syrian population.

In this regard we have noted a report released by the UN Commissioner of Human Rights indicating that 93 000 Syrian people have died since the start of the conflict in March 2011. Therefore, we condemn all human rights abuses; in particular violations of the rights of vulnerable groups, such as women and children.

We have closely monitored the meeting of the G8 leaders in Northern Ireland on 18 June 2013, and disappointed that the meeting failed to agree on all aspects pertaining to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria.  There was, however, agreement on the need for the Geneva meeting.  As South Africa we are concerned that any delay in the proposed negotiations in Geneva will have severe consequences for the prospects of achieving peace in Syria.

In this regard, we cannot agree with the precondition that negotiations are not possible until President Assad steps down. Even though the SA conflict stretched over a much longer period and the UN declared the apartheid system a crime against humanity, representatives of the regime were not excluded from the negotiations that led to a democratic settlement in South Africa.

We therefore cannot agree with the position taken by some sectors of the opposition who are refusing to negotiate by using President al-Assad as an excuse. We have delivered the same message to the Syrian government that negotiations should commence without preconditions.

South Africa reaffirms that it is essential that a political path be supported by a united, cohesive international effort towards a Syrian-led negotiated political transition aimed at establishing a democratic pluralistic society in which minorities are protected.

South Africa rejects any calls for regime change and external military interference or any action not in line with the Charter of the United Nations. South Africa remains concerned about the continuing militarisation of the conflict in Syria and notes, with concern, the decision by the United States to arm the Syrian Free Army.

The South African government reiterates that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria and that the only hope for the Syrian people lies in the willingness of all the parties to the conflict to immediately put an end to the violence and start engaging each other constructively with the aim of reaching an agreement on a political transition based on the Geneva Communiqué of June 2012.

Still in the Middle East Region, you will recall that on 14 June 2013, the Islamic Republic of Iran hosted elections to elect a new president, following the culmination of the two-term office of the incumbent President of Iran, Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Against this background, Dr Hassan Rouhani was declared the winner of the elections having recorded 50.1 percent of votes. The President-Elect will be inaugurated into office on 3 August 2013.

President Zuma had extended his congratulations and best wishes to President-Elect Rouhani and the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran and expressed the hope that relations between South Africa and Iran would be further consolidated under his leadership. South Africa maintains good levels of cooperation with Iran across varied fields both bilaterally and multilaterally.

In this regard, the President referred specifically to the Eleventh Meeting of the South Africa – Iran Joint Commission, which is scheduled to be hosted in Pretoria on 10 October 2013, as a mechanism to consolidate relations and to exchange views on international and regional developments.

Following Dr Rouhani’s election, the South African Government was encouraged by the resolve expressed by President-Elect Rouhani concerning his incoming Administration’s increased support for engagement more actively with the P5 +1 regarding negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme.

In this regard, President Zuma also requested Dr Rouhani to give priority to resolving all outstanding issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as far as his country’s nuclear programme was concerned.

Outcomes of the SADC Summit in Maputo

Ladies and Gentleman,

Let me conclude by drawing your attention closer home, the SADC Summit was held in Maputo on 15 June 2013 with a focus on the political developments in Zimbabwe. The Summit noted that credible elections would have to be held soon and under appropriate conditions as soon as possible.

In this regard, the Summit decided on the way forward as follows:

  • Urging the three Parties to the GPA to undertake immediate measures to create a conducive environment for the holding of peaceful, free, fair and credible elections;

  • Summit further urged the three Parties to the GPA, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in particular, to finalise preparations for holding the forthcoming 2013 Harmonised Elections; and;

  • reiterated its call for the lifting of all forms of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.


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