Speech by H.E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, during the International Donors Conference on Palestine: Reconstructing Gaza, 12 October, Cairo

H.E. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt H.E. Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine H.E. Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt H.E. Børge Brende, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway Your Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to thank the Government and the People of Egypt for the warm hospitality accorded to us since our arrival in Cairo. Our presence here today in this august gathering is indicative of the importance the international community attaches to the resolution of the conflict between Palestine and Israel. For this gathering we owe our appreciation to our co-hosts, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Norway.

Your Excellencies

We are meeting during one of the most trying times in the history of Palestine, particularly in Gaza, where ordinary civilians have had their lives shattered by the recent onslaught. Palestinians are now facing a mammoth task of rebuilding their lives with a sense of normalcy in an abnormal situation.

In these trying times, the People of Palestine are looking to the international community to assist them to rebuild their infrastructure and create an amenable environment that would lead to a permanent and peaceful resolution of the long lasting Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  In this regard, I would like to thank my colleagues, H.E. Mr Sameh Shoukry, the Foreign Minister of Egypt and H.E. Mr Børge Brende, the Foreign Minister of Norway for arranging and co-hosting this conference.

Your Excellencies

The Government and the People of South Africa remain committed to the aspirations of the Palestinian people in their struggle to achieve freedom and independence.  Our engagement is informed by the African value of Batho Pele / Peoples first, which I might as well add, guides South Africa’s foreign policy. Given our limited resources and challenges, we have never wavered in our commitment to the principled struggle of our sisters and brothers in Palestine.

At the height of the recent attack on Gaza, President Zuma was swift and spontaneous in pledging USD 1 million towards humanitarian assistance and further appointed Special envoys to give impetus to the political track of this protracted political conflict.

When the Israeli Government launched its unprovoked attack against the People of Gaza, we immediately engaged the Israeli authorities through their Ambassador in Pretoria, demanding for Israel to exercise restraint.

We are indeed pleased that the Palestinians and Israelis have concluded a ceasefire agreement and we are hopeful that the ongoing negotiations would lead to a permanent ceasefire arrangement.

In this regard, I know I am expressing the sentiment of everyone here and the international community when I express our immense appreciation to the sisterly country of Egypt, in brokering this peace initiative. We are also pleased with the establishment of the Government of National Consensus. We are equally pleased in Egypt for strengthening Palestinian unity by bringing Fatah and Hamas together.

Your Excellencies

We all agree that the situation in Palestine is untenable and the international community has a responsibility to alleviate the plight of the Palestinian people generally and the Gazans in particular. The Palestinian People have a right to self-determination like all nations represented in this conference. It is also our firm view that the Palestinian People have a right to freedom of movement.  We therefore call on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, so that the Palestinian people can rebuild their lives and most importantly the much needed humanitarian assistance and the rebuilding of Gaza could be undertaken without hindrance.

Allow me Chairperson, to express my Government’s and people’s appreciation to the Arab Republic of Egypt in permitting the South African medical practitioners and medical aid access through the Rafah border.

We are also pleased that the Palestinians have once again reaffirmed their willingness to resume the negotiations with Israel on the permanent resolution of the conflict.  We stand ready to be of assistance if called upon to share our experiences on national reconciliation, nation building, constitution building and post conflict reconstruction and development.

I thank you

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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