Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, on international developments, 06 September 2013, OR Tambo Building

In our briefing today, we will focus on the political situation in the Middle East Region particularly the political situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, developments in Egypt, 10th SA-UK Bilateral Forum, UNGA 68th and SA relief efforts to DRC.

Syria

Starting with the political developments in the Middle East region. The political situation in the Syrian Arab Republic remains our concern with the escalation of conflict that continues to draw international attention and interests following the recent chemical weapons attacks that resulted in the death and suffering of the innocent civilians in the district of Ghouta in eastern Damascus on 21 August 2013. The use of these weapons in Syria is of serious concern, which we condemn.  No cause could ever justify the use of weapons of mass destruction. 

South Africa is further concerned by the current developments pointing to the possibility of unilateral military intervention in Syria. 

The UN Charter, which is the supreme standard of international law, is clear that only the United Nations Security Council can mandate the use of military force, and only if other measures are deemed insufficient in bringing about a peaceful resolution of a conflict situation. South Africa supports the call of the UN Secretary General on 3 September 2013, for the UN Inspectors to be given time to complete their investigation.  The UN Inspectors are uniquely placed to independently establish the facts in an objective and impartial manner.

Furthermore, South Africa does not believe that bombing the already suffering people and crumbling infrastructure of Syria, will contribute to a sustainable solution.  Military intervention will serve no other purpose than hurting the possibility of a speedy diplomatic solution to the conflict and no effort should be spared to convene the proposed Geneva II Peace Conference as soon as possible. We are concerned that the use of chemical weapons, as deplorable as it is, will detract from the larger picture of finding a sustainable resolution to the conflict in Syria, which should remain the primary focus of the international community.

The South African Government remains committed to encouraging all parties involved in the current conflict in Syria to engage in a process of all-inclusive national dialogue, free of any form of violence, intimidation or outside interference, in order to satisfy the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

South Africa believes 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. 

We have also taken note of the press briefing on 4 September 2013, by the current President of the UN Security Council, Ambassador Gary Quinlan of Australia, in which he called for a re-energized diplomatic effort at finding a political solution.  However, South Africa, along with other members of the international community, is concerned that the stalemate between the Permanent Members of the UN Security, will further delay such prospects.  We therefore reiterate our call on the members of the UN Security Council to unite in purpose in moving the parties to a negotiated settlement.

Egypt

The current political crisis promises to be the most serious since the forced resignation of Mubarak and is increasingly thrusting Egypt into a phase of heightened political violence, as evidenced by reports of a car bombing yesterday in an assassination attempt on the interim interior minister. In view of this, the South Africa Government reiterates its call on all relevant parties to engage in inclusive political dialogue in order to return Egypt to a constitutional order through the holding of free, fair and all-inclusive elections.

We have also joined the call by the international community for the unconditional release of President Morsy and all other political prisoners held in detention. Furthermore, we also called on all parties to refrain from acts of violence, revenge and retribution.

South Africa reaffirms that violence against legitimate protests does not further the cause of democracy or contribute towards healing the differences between people in a polarized society such as Egypt. Furthermore, we expressed our support for the United Nations Secretary-General’s call on the authorities in Egypt to ensure respect for the rule of law and international human rights standards.

Our stance on the escalating political situation in Egypt “is based on the Constitutive Act of the African Union, where any unconstitutional change of government – whatever the premise – is specifically rejected”. The AU High Level Panel is currently in Egypt trying to broker a political solution and is expected to report back to the AUPSC in due course.

UNGA 68th

President Jacob Zuma will lead the South African delegation to the sixty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA68) scheduled to take place in New York from 24 September – 2 October 2013.

The theme for UNGA68 will be “The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage!” This is quite appropriate, since UNGA68 is taking place against the rapidly approaching target date for achieving the MDG’s by 2015 and the International deliberations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which has become a major focal point in the multilateral arena.

As yet, there has not been an intergovernmental process focusing on the development agenda beyond 2015. UNGA68 therefore provides an opportunity for the international community to assess the various processes and for setting the stage towards the Post-2015 development agenda. A prominent speaking slot has been secured for the President to address the General Assembly at the opening session of the General Debate in the morning of 24 September 2013. 

This will provide a platform before the world’s pre-eminent multilateral institution to advance South Africa’s strategic approach towards achieving the MDGs and the Post-2015 development agenda. In accordance with South Africa’s strategic approach, the participation of the national delegation will be informed by national interest and priorities, South Africa’s regional and Continental commitments and our aspirations for a prosperous world at peace with itself.

World Food Programme (SA relief efforts to DRC)

The World Food Programme (WFP) initiated a relief and recovery programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in view of the renewed political will to find a lasting solution in the said country.

In recognition of the valuable leadership that the Government of South Africa has taken on to bring about the renewed hope, and to end the human suffering in the DRC, and to support SA’s efforts, the WFP on the basis of the recovery programme it initiated launched its 30months food assistance project. The project is estimated to assist 4.2 million Congolese including the Internally Displaced People by providing life-saving food to reduce acute malnutrition, facilitating access to markets and education, increasing the resilience of severely food insecure communities particularly women and children.

It is against this back drop that the WFP made an appeal to South Africa to consider making a financial contribution to its 30months food assistance project in the DRC.

The South African Government as a caring country based on the principle of Ubuntu and in solidarity with the Congolese people who are in a situation of need, responded positively to the WFP’S appeal by contributing an amount of R3 million.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, 082 884 5974.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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