Opening Remarks by Deputy Minister Mfeketo: 6th SA-Iran Deputy Minister Working Group Meeting, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 29 August 2015

Your Excellency, Dr Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran;
Your Excellencies, Deputy Ministers in the Islamic Republic of Iran;
Ambassador Faraji, Ambassador of Iran in the Republic of South Africa
Mr Archie Whitehead, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Tehran;
Fellow Deputy Ministers of South Africa;
Officials from the Governments of Iran and of South Africa;
Ladies and Gentlemen

At the outset, Your Excellency, please allow me to express my sincere appreciation for the gracious hospitality extended to my delegation and I by the Government and the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We bring with us the warm greetings of our President, President Jacob Zuma, as well as the Government and the People of South Africa.

Your Excellency, I am pleased to be back in this beautiful, historical city of Tehran.  More importantly, I am pleased to be among our friends.  We remember the significant role that Iran played in our struggle for freedom and democracy, and we therefore continue to express our appreciation to the Government and the People of Iran for their support.

Your Excellency, at the outset I wish to express my personal appreciation for making this visit possible.  Our Ambassador informs me that you changed your schedule to accommodate this visit.  Thank you.

Your Excellency, we in South Africa attach great importance to our relations with our brothers and sisters here in Iran.  We recognise that Iran is a pivotal and influential player in its region, as well as internationally. Your country has a rich history and a vibrant culture. In this regard, I would like to thank you for inviting me to visit the majestic city of Isfahan yesterday, where I saw first-hand your rich cultural endowment.

Iran has a large and growing economy and possesses skills and expertise that could positively influence the countries around it - and even beyond.  Not only is Iran one of the world’s largest sources of energy, it is also one of the most diverse and industrialised economies in the region.  It is for this reason that we are pleased that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been concluded and Iran will take its rightful place among the economies of the World. 

Your Excellency, please allow me on behalf of the Government and People of South Africa to congratulate the Government and the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the successful outcome of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.  We are fully cognisant that negotiations may sometimes be difficult, however, we are pleased that you endured and you now have this road map to take you out of the unilaterally imposed sanctions by the Western nations.

Your Excellency, following the conclusion of this historic agreement, my Government considered it of utmost importance that a high-level delegation undertake a Working Visit to Iran to exchange views with our Iranian partners on how best to enable trade and economic relations in preparation for the time when we can conduct our bilateral trade and economic relations free from any unilaterally imposed restrictions.

For this reason, I have the honour to lead a delegation of Deputy Ministers and senior officials representing trade and industry, energy, agriculture and finance. We are here to convey the strong will of the Government and People of South Africa for the full normalisation of our economic, trade and investment relations with Iran.

Your Excellency, the purpose of the Deputy Ministerial Working Group Meetings is to assess progress and ensure follow up in between meetings of the Joint Commission. When you visited South Africa last year, we agreed that the period of review should be shortened to ensure even better monitoring of the implementation of the decisions of the Joint Commission. It is in this regard that I return to Iran with three Deputy Ministers three months after the 12th JC to assess progress, in particular to understand what has been done in each sector since May.

We have had a number of delegations, from Agriculture, Energy and Water & Sanitation visiting Iran. In South Africa we have also had visits from the Iranian Minister and Deputy Minister of Finance and Economics, as well as the Department of Science and Technology, in which an agreement was reached for investment by both parties of 200 000 Euros for Research and Development. Anchoring all this are regular meetings between the Iranian Foreign Ministry and DIRCO.

As I have noted, the purpose of this particular working group meeting is aimed at assessing programme and project specific initiatives that emanate from the 12th Joint Commission.

My expectation is that Working Groups must now report back on progress made since the 12th JC. We must move to the level of actually implementing i.e. what is the way forward? We need to initiate the projects that we agreed upon in the last JC and therefore are required to develop action plans with SMART objectives. We need to identify challenges and prepare possible solutions and move to the level of identifying possible individuals, entities and focal points from both countries to move projects forward.

Our strong political relations must now give meaningful expression to our economic cooperation. It must anchor trade and cooperation between our two countries. The outcome of this Working Group meeting must also simultaneously identify key areas of future cooperation.

Deputy Minister Abdollahian, in our country we have created an intersectoral mechanism that is made up of the Deputy Ministers that are here, whose function is to monitor implementation and progress.

Your Excellency, allow me express my personal gratitude for the warm hospitality that you have extended to us. With these brief remarks, I look forward to our engagement today and to a constructive outcome towards deepening our bilateral relations and the full normalisation of our economic, trade and investment relations.
I thank you


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