International Relations Peace and Security Briefing to Heads of Missions and Media by President Zuma, Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House, Pretoria, 15 September 2015
Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Senior officials and advisors,
Good afternoon to you all.
We pride ourselves of having a huge presence of foreign missions in our country. You are all very welcome in South Africa and to this briefing on international matters.
We thought it important to give this briefing as we prepare to go to New York to attend the 70th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly.
Our briefing will focus especially on peace and security issues.
South Africa’s foreign policy is premised on the directive in the Freedom Charter, which stipulates that “There Shall be Peace and Friendship’’.
Informed by this principle, and the vision of building a better Africa and a better world, the following guides our diplomatic relations;
A commitment to;
• The promotion of human rights and democracy;
• Justice and international law in the conduct of relations between nations;
• Promoting the African Agenda in world affairs; and
• Economic development through regional and international co-operation in an interdependent world.
The world will gather at the United Nations headquarters in New York next week, for the historic 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will take place under the theme: “The United Nations at 70: the Road ahead for Peace, Security and Human Rights”.
This year’s session will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the establishment of the United Nations.
We attended the commemoration of the end of the Second World War in Russia in May and China in August this year.
The two events were a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and the need for the world to work harder as the UN turns 70 years old, to promote peace and security.
South Africa will use her participation in the 70th Session to continue our relentless work to achieve the reform of the United Nations, specifically of the Security Council, which has a key role to play in promoting world peace and security.
We are also currently chairing the G77 and China. In this context, developing countries will also advocate for the reform of the United Nations System, to make it more responsive to the interests and needs of the majority of its Members, the developing countries. This is more so for Africa, a continent with more than one billion people, which is not represented in the UN Security Council as permanent members.
World leaders are also scheduled to adopt an outcome document titled; “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” at the General Assembly.
This development agenda builds on the Millennium Development Goals and would be the guiding global development framework for the next fifteen years.
Ladies and gentlemen
As Nkosi Albert Luthuli said at the 42nd ANC Annual Conference; “Our interest in freedom is not confined to ourselves only. We are interested in the liberation of all oppressed people in the whole of Africa and in the world as a whole”.
As the UN meets, some outstanding peace and security issues will still be looming large.
We believe that there can be no lasting peace in the Middle East for as long as Palestinians are denied their inalienable right to a state of their own.
Last week a historic and landmark development took place when the UN General Assembly approved a resolution to allow the Palestinian flag to fly in front of the UN headquarters. This is a great victory for the Palestinian cause and the quest for peace worldwide.
South Africa supports the international efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side and in peace with Israel within internationally recognized borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Our special envoys to the Middle East, Dr Zola Skweyiya and Mr Aziz Pahad have concluded two rounds of consultations that took them to Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, UAE, Egypt and Syria.
We urge parties to the conflict to return to the negotiating table without any pre-conditions and engage in genuine dialogue.
Our view is that in order to make progress, the basic issues which have in the past proved to be stumbling blocks to a conclusive agreement need to be resolved as a matter of priority.
These are namely;
• All Palestinian parties and groupings need to form a cohesive collective solidarity front for negotiations;
• The unacceptable blockade of Gaza by Israel must be lifted in order to stop its inaccessibility with respect to humanitarian aid and the general dire humanitarian situation that this causes,
• The Israeli settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem, must be stopped
• An urgent solution is required with respect to the right of return of Palestinian refugees and
• There should be a full recognition of the borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967.
We also believe that the time has come for the UN to determine a date for the holding of a self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa.
We further urge the UN Security Council to look into the questions of the respect for human rights and the illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources.
We also welcome some positive developments in the world which augur well for the 70th anniversary, such as the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States after more than 50 years of tensions.
We reiterate our call for the immediate repeal of all legislation that maintains the Embargo against Cuba.
We also welcome yet again the release of the Cuban Five who visited our country recently.
The impact of wars and poverty in the world is manifested through the expanding refugee crisis.
The world has witnessed the horrific and deadly journeys by African and Middle Eastern immigrants across the Mediterranean, in search of a better life in Europe.
The painful human tragedy of over four million Syrian refugees has also reminded us of the need to find a lasting solution, which is to stop the war in Syria.
It took the painful drowning of a four year old Syrian child to shake the world into action. Attempts to shut the borders by some European countries will not assist the situation.
To achieve lasting peace in Syria, the international community must reject all calls for regime change in that country.
The international community must not support external military interference or any action in Syria that is not in line with the Charter of the United Nations.
Support for non-state actors and terrorist organisations that seek to effect a regime change in Syria is unacceptable.
As immediate relief for the refugees, we call on our European Union (EU) partners as well as Syria’s regional neighbours to assist the Syrian refugees, in full accordance and compliance with all Human Rights and Humanitarian laws.
We pledge our support to the EU as it grapples with this challenging situation.
These are all issues that put enormous pressure on the UN Security Council to find solutions, as we move towards the 70th anniversary next week.
In January and April this year, our own country was forced to confront the difficulties of migration when foreign and African nationals were attacked.
We have since then, been working hard with SADC sister countries to find solutions to this international challenge, especially the problem of illegal migration.
South Africa experiences a mixed migration flow comprising people who are genuine asylum seekers and those who flee to the country in seek of economic relief.
Another challenge within the SADC region exists where borders separate communities and families.
In some instances, the borderline does not effectively act as a barrier to these communities, particularly those that conduct normal day-to-day activities such as schooling, trade and medical care as they will keep coming each day.
This situation demands innovative solutions. We are partnering with SADC neighbours to ensure proactive facilitation of designated community crossing points. We will launch such an innovative project soon in Tshidilamolomo, a village situated on the border between South Africa and Botswana.
To combat illegal migration, we engage within SADC through the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security with Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
Joint immigration inspections are regularly held at selected ports of entry by officials from respective partner countries.
South Africa is also chairing the SADC Organ on Public Safety and Security Sub Committee, promoting the free movement of persons.
Currently, the Organ is discussing protocols related to a SADC UNIVISA, as well as a strategy on combatting illegal migration, smuggling and human trafficking.
The Organ has established a Refugee Commissioners Sub-Committee to coordinate the regional effort and to manage a Draft Common Regional Asylum and Refugee Management Policy Framework.
In this context, the committee cooperates with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure that international protocols are adhered to, and that all migrants entering the Republic will have a right to representation and for the case to be heard and adjudicated.
Ministers, and Deputy Ministers,
South Africa chaired the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation until August this year. Work continues to implement decisions taken in relation to peace and security matters in the region, especially in the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
To further promote African solutions to African problems, the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises has to be operationalized.
South Africa, on behalf of the SADC region, has offered to host the AMANI AFRICA II Field Training Exercise next month.
This will bring into operation, the African Standby Force as one of the pillars of the African Peace and Security Architecture.
Further north, we are extremely concerned about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, which has resulted in a massive displacement of people, causing a humanitarian crisis.
We note and commend the peace efforts as led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). We further commend all the parties to the conflict for signing the Compromise Agreement.
The Agreement provides a basis for a transitional authority and the important beginning towards resolving the conflict.
We therefore call on all the parties to honour and respect the Agreement in order for the country to move forward. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will continue to represent us in assisting the people of South Sudan to find one another.
With regards to Burundi, we urge the East African Community, through its mediator in Burundi, President Yoweri Museveni of the Republic of Uganda, to continue with the political dialogue, with a view to finding a lasting solution.
We reiterate our support for the signing of the Malian Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in May this year by the Malian Government, the Algiers Platform Movement and some groups of the Coordination Movement of the Azawad (CMA).
We call for the strict implementation of the Agreement, and the mobilization of the needed resources.
The situation in Libya continues to be of serious concern. As such, we fully support the UN-led political dialogue. We also commend Libya’s neighbouring countries for their role in the search for a solution in that country.
South Africa stands ready to assist Libya in post-conflict reconstruction and development and to share experiences in reconciliation and constitution making processes.
We condemn in the strongest terms the various terrorist acts committed on the Continent by terrorist groups in Somalia, Kenya, north eastern Nigeria, Mali, the larger Sahel, as well as in North Africa.
We will play our role through the AU Peace and Security Council to assist the affected regions.
Your Excellencies, beyond security issues, the matters of sustainable economic growth in our continent and the world is on our agenda given the economic crisis.
We will participate in the G20 forum in Turkey in November, which drives a collective response to the global financial and economic crisis and recovery.
Ongoing priorities for South Africa include the promotion of employment, improving investment in infrastructure and international coordination on tax matters.
We will continue to advocate for the reform of international financial institutions at this august forum.
Further economic cooperation in the South, will be pursued when the 3rd India-Africa Partnership Forum Summit convenes in New Delhi, India next month.
In December, South Africa will host the Second Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg.
During our tenure as co-chair of FOCAC, South Africa will continue to ensure that the principles of South-South cooperation are realised and that special attention is given to assisting in the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Questions have been raised with regards to whether President Al Bashir of Sudan will be invited to FOCAC. The South African Government is aware of the order made by the International Criminal Court on 04 September 2015 requesting submissions from South Africa in relation to the case of President Al-Bashir.
We are currently studying the order.
We will then make a determination as to the next course of action, if any.
Our own courts are also still considering the matter of President Al-Bashir's last visit to South Africa in June which makes this matter therefore sub-judice.
It should however be remembered that Sudan is a member of FOCAC.
As such, it is expected that the Sudanese Government will participate in FOCAC.
When the UN meets next week another success story of note is the significant progress made by Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in combatting Ebola.
As such, there is a need for sustained mobilization in order to completely eradicate the scourge, and to provide more economic and financial support to ensure sustainable economic recovery in the affected countries.
We will also participate in the important climate change summit in Paris, France.
We go to Paris happy with our contribution in Durban in 2011. If South Africa had not produced the historic outcomes at COP17/CMP7 under the UN Climate change conference in December 2011, the world would not be where it is today, with leaders agreeing on what needs to be done on Climate Change.
South Africa revitalised this negotiation structure, producing the current framework for negotiations under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.
This is the basis on which negotiations towards COP21/CMP11 in Paris are taking place.
As we approach Paris, we continue our leadership on Climate Change as Chair of the G77 and China which comprises 134 countries. We are determined to ensure that the outcomes of Paris support development.
Key for developing countries out of the Paris talks are the following: Adaptation, Finance, Technology Transfer, Capacity Building and all the things which are essential to support developing countries in order for them to continue doing more on mitigation.
As Chair of the G77 and China, I would like to emphasize that a Paris package that is hollow and weak on finance will be not be acceptable.
South Africa will also participate at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta later this year.
We look forward to a successful UN General Assembly 70th anniversary session next week and all the other important international forums.
We also look forward to cooperating with your governments in the pursuit of many of these goals.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
15 September 2015