14 August 2012

Southern Africa: Media Briefing By Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim On International Developments

Photo: Buanews
File photo: President Jacob Zuma, center, with President Robert Mugabe, right, on a previous working visit to Zimbabwe.

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Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media and a warm welcome to Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) weekly briefing on international developments and upcoming international engagements.

Syria

South Africa remains deeply concerned at the escalating violence in Syria. Therefore, we continue to monitor the deteriorating security situation. The level of violence is escalating on both sides, especially the use of heavy weapons and aircrafts in attacking civilian populated areas.

Once again, South Africa conveys its deepest sympathy to the Syrian people for the significant loss of life and massive displacement of the population. In this climate, South Africa deeply regrets the resignation of the Joint-Special Envoy, Mr Kofi Annan. We sincerely hope that a replacement can be found for Mr Annan, in order to maintain the option of a mediated political settlement.

Against this background, South Africa has consistently and strongly supported his tireless efforts at bringing a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

South Africa agrees with the statement of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-Moon last week that the world should be alarmed at the increased militarisation of the conflict and the apparent decision by the parties to achieve a military rather than a peaceful political solution.

It is essential that a political path be supported by a united, cohesive international effort towards a Syrian-led negotiated political transition aimed at establishing a democratic pluralistic society in which minorities are protected.

We remain disappointed that the Council was not able to apply pressure to both sides to bring an end to the violence and to comply with their respective obligations under the Six-Point Plan.

The UN, specifically the Security Council, must fulfil its international responsibility in this regard. It is therefore essential that the Security Council address this dire situation in line with the United Nations Charter. The Charter determines that the Council should make recommendations for conflict resolution and take account of failures of implementation with its decisions: "without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties concerned". Chapter VII of the UN Charter therefore mandates the Security Council to address the conduct of all parties to a conflict equally.

South Africa appreciates the efforts of United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which it is executing in spite of the violence. South Africa also appreciates the efforts of regional actors, including the League of Arab States, and those of the UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent in assisting to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population.

Zimbabwe

It appears that there is noticeable progress in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in Zimbabwe as evidenced by a near complete constitution-making process and legislative reforms that are required in terms of the GPA.

The Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) has reported that the final draft of the new constitution has been completed and has been signed off by all the party negotiators to the GPA, as well as members of COPAC's Management Committee.

The draft Constitution has now been circulated to the political Principals namely President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara, as well as Parliament's Presiding Officers, the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Senate President.

The next step will be an All Stakeholders' Conference to be organised and convened by COPAC to give the ordinary Zimbabwean citizens an opportunity to look at the draft new constitution before it is tabled in Parliament and thereafter subjected to a referendum.

We have taken note of this development and on the whole we are satisfied with the progress in the implementation of the GPA.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)Facilitator (President Zuma) remains seized with the process in assisting the Parties to fully implement the GPA, as well as an election roadmap which should assist the country to create a conducive environment for the holding of a credible and peaceful referendum and elections.

To this end, President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to undertake a working visit to Harare, Zimbabwe on Wednesday, 15 August 2012. President Zuma undertakes this visit in his capacity as the SADC mandated Facilitator to the Zimbabwe political dialogue.

In fulfilling his mandate, President Zuma is, from time to time, expected to interact with the parties' signatory to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) essentially to assess progress in the implementation of the GPA. During the visit, President Zuma will meet with the political principals to the GPA namely, His Excellency, President Mugabe, Honourable Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Honourable Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

Following the visit, President Zuma will be expected to report to the SADC Summit to be held in Maputo, Mozambique from 16 to 17 August 2012.

Legislative Reforms

With regard to progress on legislative reforms, the Human Rights Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill were passed by the House of Assembly and transmitted to the Senate for debate.

It is important to highlight that these are important pieces of legislation which should contribute to the creation of an enabling political environment towards a credible and peaceful referendum and elections in Zimbabwe.

SADC summit in Mozambique

President Jacob Zuma will lead a South African delegation to the SADC Summit, to be hosted in Maputo, Mozambique, on 18 August 2012. The Summit is preceded by several preparatory meetings, including the Council of Ministers to be attended by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

At the summit, South Africa is expected to report on its Chairpersonship of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and the challenges ahead.

The SADC Summit is a statutory meeting of the 15-nation regional body which convenes annually in August. The meeting considers matters from different sectors for decision and for noting. It also examines the performance of SADC institutions and reviews the overall implementation of the SADC socio-economic programme.

SADC continues to serve as the primary vehicle for South African foreign policy to achieve regional development and integration within Southern Africa.

South Africa's future remains inextricably linked to the future of the African continent and that of its neighbours in Southern Africa.

SADC strives for balanced and equitable regional integration as a fundamental condition for sustainable development in the region and most importantly to free the people of the region from the scourges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.

Second meeting of the South Africa-Vietnam partnership forum

On 17 August 2012, I will co-chair the second meeting of the South Africa-Vietnam Partnership Forum with my counterpart from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr Le Luong Minh in Pretoria.

The objectives of this meeting include a review of the entire scope of bilateral relations between South Africa and Vietnam as well as identifying priority areas of bilateral co-operation in order to maximise existing opportunities.

During the meeting, bilateral discussions will focus, among others, on political and security matters of mutual interest and issues related to biodiversity protection and promotion. It is expected that a number of other government departments will participate in the deliberations with their counterparts from Vietnam, notably Defence and Military Veterans; Environmental Affairs; Justice and Constitutional Development and Water Affairs.

The relationship between South Africa and Vietnam is longstanding. Over the years, there has been a steady exchange of visits, including high-level visits between the two countries.

South Africa and Vietnam are both developing countries and can learn from each other's experiences and successes. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has managed the remarkable achievement of halving poverty in Vietnam over the past 20 years. One area that needs to be explored is expansion in trade, including market access for products of export interest to the agricultural sector.

Non-Aligned Movement summit (NAM)

The XVI NAM Summit under the theme "Lasting Peace through Joint Global Governance" will be held in Tehran, Iran on 30 to 31 August 2012. The summit will be preceded by a Senior Officials Meeting on 26 and 27 August 2012 and a Ministerial Meeting on 28 and 29 August 2012. At the summit, Iran is taking over from Egypt as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement for the period 2012 to 2015.

Through participation in the NAM South Africa continues to share similar positions on many issues with other countries of the South and work with these countries to create political, economic and social convergence for the fight against poverty, under-development and the marginalisation of the South.

Although South Africa currently does not occupy any leadership role in groupings of the South active in the UN system, South Africa remains at the forefront of the activities of organisations of the South such as the NAM, and G77 and will continue to promote amongst others a coherent and integrated implementation of the UN development agenda, including SDGs; MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals (IDGs).

For the XVI NAM Summit the Final Document which was adopted during the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Coordinating Bureau, that took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, from 7 to 10 May 2012, will be the base document for further negotiations in Tehran. Broad consensus has been reached on many issues and it is expected that no major problems will be encountered with the adoption of the Final document in Tehran.

The final outcome document of the summit will focus on three major areas:

Global Issues including the review of the international situation; international law; promotion and preservation of multilateralism; peaceful settlement of disputes and non-use of threats or use of force; culture of peace and dialogue among civilisations; religions and cultures; right to self-determination and decolonisation; follow-up to the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of Major UN Summits and Conferences; United Nations related issues including reform; disarmament and international security; terrorism; democracy; North-South dialogue and cooperation; and the role of regional organisations.

Regional and Sub-Regional issues in the Middle East; Africa; and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Development, Social and Human Rights issues including least developed countries; landlocked developing countries and small island states; trade; South-South cooperation; human rights and fundamental freedoms; International Humanitarian Law; information and communication technology; advancement of women; health; transnational organised crime; drug trafficking; and corruption.

NAM Committee on Palestine

The NAM Committee on Palestine, of which South Africa is a member, normally meets on the margins of Ministerial Conferences and Summits of the Movement to be briefed on the situation in Palestine and pronounce on the collective NAM support for Palestinian self-determination.

An Extraordinary Meeting of the NAM Committee on Palestine was scheduled to take place in Ramallah, Palestine on 5 August 2012. However, the Israeli government blocked the Committee from entering Palestine on the pretext that four of the member nations of the Committee do not have diplomatic relations with Israel - this despite the fact that the meeting was to take place in Palestine. This would not have been the first time that the Committee held its special meeting in Ramallah since it did so in 2002, with all its members allowed entry.

The Committee issued a statement condemning the actions of Israel.

Subsequently it was agreed that the draft Declaration on Solidarity with Palestine, which was supposed to be adopted by the Ministerial Meeting of the NAM Committee on Palestine in Ramallah, should be forwarded to the next Ministerial Meeting of the Committee on Palestine, which will be held on the margins of the XVI NAM Summit in Tehran, for adoption and recommendation to the Summit.

The South African government will continue to work within the NAM Committee on Palestine to highlight the plight of the Palestinians. South Africa remains steadfast in its conviction that the Palestinian struggle is a legitimate struggle for self-determination, justice and freedom.

I thank you.

Issued by: Department of International Relations and Cooperation

14 Aug 2012

Issued by: Department of International Relations and Cooperation

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