Press Remarks by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the Occasion of the Joint Media Conference, SA-UK Bilateral Forum, 10 September 2013

Members of the media,

Good afternoon and welcome to the briefing on the outcomes of the Strategic Consultations held this morning with my British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The Foreign Secretary is accompanied by a high-profile delegation including the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Minister for Universities and Science, and the Minister for Africa - all of whom had fruitful discussions with their counterparts.

Indeed, we had extensive consultations in the context of the SA-UK Bilateral Forum. This Forum is a strategic platform created by the two countries in order to periodically review our bilateral cooperation across many areas.

In 2011, Foreign Secretary Hague hosted the 9th session of our consultations, the major outcome of which was the adoption of the SA-UK Joint Strategy which serves as a joint programme of bilateral cooperation. The Strategy covers the period 2011-2015. This session of the Forum therefore serves as a mid-term review of the implementation of the Joint Programme of Action.

Of course, the highlight of our consultations is strengthening economic partnership between our two countries. In this regard, we have noted considerable progress registered in strengthening our cooperation in this area. The UK is South Africa’s largest source of Foreign Direct Investment and our 7th largest export market.

This morning, we were informed of the launch of the SA-UK Business Council. We welcome this significant development as a positive step in promoting a focused trade and investment partnership between our countries.

We have noted the increasing flows and movement of people between our countries as a significant trend in our relations. The UK is South Africa’s number one source of long-haul tourism in the world. In 2012, more than 440 000 tourists from the UK visited South Africa representing a 9.9% growth compared to the previous year. I know that many South Africans also visited the UK for pleasure, business and professional reasons. I have informed Foreign Secretary Hague that many more South Africans would like to visit the UK. There is therefore an urgent need to address the challenge posed by the current visa regime.

Recognising the common challenge facing our youth, Foreign Secretary Hague and I have agreed to champion youth cooperation in the SA-UK relations. In this regard, we will utilize our good offices, to give attention to youth unemployment, skills development and entrepreneurship. This afternoon, we will jointly address the Youth Empowerment Dialogue to demonstrate our commitment.

We also welcomed the initiative to launch the SA-UK Cultural Collaboration that will take place in 2014-2015. The SA part of the cultural manifestation in the UK will commence next year coinciding with the historic celebration of our 20 years of democracy.  The planned festivities will highlight the journey we have travelled since the dawn of our democracy. This will indeed be a significant milestone in the life of our nation. We wish to thank the UK and our friends in the world for partnering with us as we mark this poignant epoch in the evolution of our young nation.

We have also exchanged views on developments in our respective regions. I have briefed the Foreign Secretary on ongoing efforts on the continent to build our capacity to respond to peace and security challenges. I have underscored the importance of close cooperation between the United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council as provided for in the UNSC Resolution 2033.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our consultations are taking place at a time when the international community is facing daunting challenges. While our two countries may be enjoying a period of peace, democracy and development, there are countries in the world that are experiencing social and political upheavals.

During our meeting this morning, we exchanged views on developments in the world including in Syria. We have noted that the crisis in Syria has reached a stalemate with dire humanitarian consequences. South Africa believes that only a political process, with broad international support in the framework of the United Nations, aimed at a Syrian-led negotiated political transition will end the current crisis in Syria.

We have also exchanged views on the Middle East Peace Process. I have expressed South Africa’s concern at the lack of progress in bringing finality to this long outstanding issue.

In conclusion, I am satisfied with the outcomes of our deliberations with my counterpart and wish to thank Foreign Secretary Hague and his delegation for our productive engagement.

Thank you.

For more information, please contact Mr Clayson Monyela, 082 884 5974.

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