Remarks by Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, at the Opening Session of the 2nd Conference on Cooperation Amongst East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD II), Jakarta, Indonesia, 1 March 2014

H. E President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
H. E Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah of the State of Palestine,
H. E Mr Marty Natalegawa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia,
H. E Mr Fumio KISHIDA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan,
Ministers from CEAPAD

Let me begin by thanking our host for honouring us with the invitation to participate in this gathering of friends of the Palestinian people whose struggle for their right to self-determination and statehood has been on the agenda of the international community for decades.

The South African people are, like all of you, in solidarity with the Palestinians.  Our struggle for freedom at home has historically been connected to that of the Palestinians as our late former President, Nelson Mandela, once said that: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.  President Mandela and his comrade-in-arms, Chairman Yasser Arafat, have since joined our ancestors but their quest for the freedom of the Palestinians is a cause we have taken up and, indeed, brings us together today.

Excellencies,

South Africa supports international efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel within internationally recognized borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967, prior to the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing Israeli settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem.  We have repeatedly called on Israel to abandon all settlement expansion.  A two-state solution to the conflict is under increasing threat as Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank continues to make the separation of both peoples into two states increasingly difficult. The continuation of settlement construction is seen by the South African Government not only as a violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.  It is also in violation of a commitment already agreed to by Israel during preceding peace negotiations, including at the 2007 Annapolis International Middle East Peace Conference in which South Africa participated.

South Africa stands firmly opposed to the blockade of Gaza.  The blockade impedes vital humanitarian aid and worsens the already inhuman living conditions.

We encourage a just solution to the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

Excellencies,

It will be sad if the United Nations could celebrate its 70thanniversary next year without the conclusion of the Palestinian question – without Palestine as a full member.

In 2011, South Africa co-sponsored a bid for statehood in the United Nations for the State of Palestine, however, that was not successful. On 29 November 2012, the General Assembly voted to grant Palestine a non-member observer State status at the United Nations.  This is commendable progress, but not enough, considering that the UN has been seized with this matter for too long.

Excellencies,

At the bilateral level, we have taken steps requiring the correct labelling of products emanating from the Occupied Territories.

The assistance we offer to our Palestinian brothers and sisters include capacity building for the civil service, diplomatic training, and humanitarian support through the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East.

It is customary in the Summits of the African Union to dedicate part of our agenda to the discussion of the Palestinian struggle because, as a continent, we have travelled and know the long walk of decolonisation.

The BRICS is another staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause through the declarations of its Summits and concrete action in multilateral fora.

With our India-Brazil (IBSA) partners we have also pronounced ourselves in solidarity with the Palestinians and contribute in our modest way financially to projects that impact the lives of ordinary Palestinians.

Excellencies, Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa is here to say, together with all the participants, west and by Palestine.  The CEAPAD, with its concrete projects, is the way to go.

We must keep the momentum alive.  Palestinians, like all of us, deserve their sovereign and independent state, co-existing in peace with its neighbours.

South Africans celebrate twenty years of their freedom this year. We know, value and cherish this freedom and wish it for the Palestinians.

I thank you.

For further information, please contact Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for DIRCO, on 082 884 5974

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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