6 December 2012

Africa: Media Statement By the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, On International Relations Matters

press release

Photo: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma at an earlier summit.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media,

In our briefing today, we will focus on the upcoming SADC Extraordinary Double Troika Summit of Heads of State and Government; recent developments in Africa and the Middle East; South Africa's final month in the United Nations (UN) Security Council and preparations for the 5th BRICS Summit.

1. President Zuma to attend SADC Extra-Ordinary Summit in Tanzania

His Excellency President Jacob Zuma will travel today, 6 December 2012, to the United Republic of Tanzania to take part in the two-day Southern African Development Community (SADC) Extra-Ordinary Summit, scheduled to take place tomorrow in Dar es Salaam.

Extra-Ordinary SADC Summits are called to consider urgent and pressing peace and security matters that threaten the essence of regional cooperation and integration, especially issues relating to regional peace and stability.

Tanzania is the current Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, whilst the Republics of South Africa and Namibia complete the Troika of the Organ. The Republic of Mozambique assumed the position of Chair of SADC in August 2012 and is supported by Angola and Malawi as other members of the SADC Troika.

The issues to be considered by the Troika, the Double Troika and the full Summit include the crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Extra-Ordinary Summit is also expected to discuss the situations in Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

South Africa will be expected to report on the facilitation process in the Republic of Zimbabwe whilst the Chair of SADC will report to the Summit on the mediation process in Madagascar.

President Zuma will be supported by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Members of the media,

South Africa is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation on the ground in eastern DRC and the mass displacement of people.

The Government of South Africa condemned, in the strongest terms, the attack on the town of Goma on 21 November 2012 by M23, Raia Mutomboki and other armed groups against the Congolese army (FARDC) and United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

The Government of South Africa called for a cessation of all hostilities and urged members of the international community including the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) to once again assist towards finding an amicable solution so as to bring about stability in the DRC.

Following regional and the international pressure, the M23 has on 1 December, started withdrawing from Goma and Sake with conditions.

The DRC is part of the SADC regional architecture and SADC is currently weighing in at this critical juncture in order to try and find a solution to the problems in eastern DRC.

In this regard, the SADC Summit to be held in Tanzania will determine the way forward.

2. South Africa condemns Israel's decision to build 3 000 new settlement homes in the West Bank

Yesterday, the South African Government released a statement condemning Israel's decision to build 3000 new settlement homes in the so-called E1 area of the West Bank.

Any further construction of settlements would seriously undermine the two-state solution by isolating East Jerusalem, the future capital of Palestine, and by threatening the viability and territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian State.

The South African Government is also extremely concerned at the Israeli Government's announcement to withhold 100 million dollars of Palestinian tax revenue. These punitive measures will have severe consequences for the Palestinian population as a whole.

Furthermore, South Africa is concerned at the inability of the UN Security Council and of the Quartet on the Middle East Peace Process to take meaningful action to move the negotiations forward. The silence of both these bodies during the recent crises in Gaza is indicative of the paralysis and the need for a new approach to resolving the situation.

This morning the department summoned the Israeli Ambassador to express the concerns I have just highlighted.

Members of the media,

You would recall that on 29 November 2012, the Palestinian Authority, with the support of the League of Arab States, submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations General Assembly applying for Observer State Status. An overwhelming majority of UN Member States approved this application, with 138 voting in favour, 9 against and 41 abstaining. Bilaterally, 132 member states of the UN have recognised Palestine as a state, with reference to the borders of 4 June1967.

South Africa fully supported the bid and co-sponsored the resolution. This position is based on South Africa's steadfast support for the Palestinian struggle as a legitimate struggle for self-determination, justice and freedom and on our full support for a two-state solution to the Question of Palestine and Peace in the Middle East, as determined by Resolution 181 (1947).

The decision by the General Assembly does not undermine existing agreements between the parties. In fact, the two-state solution is undermined by the continued illegal actions by the Israeli Government to expand its settlement activity in occupied territory.

In our view the decision taken by the UN General Assembly is only a modest step to nudge the peace process forward.

South Africa has called on the international community to redouble its efforts aimed at a permanent and sustainable political solution, namely the implementation of a viable two-state solution providing for the establishment of a Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace and security with Israel within internationally recognised borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.

We also call on those countries that have leverage over the parties to encourage them to choose the path of negotiations instead of the destructive path of conflict.

3. UN Security Council

As you know, South Africa finishes its two-year non-permanent membership of the Security Council on 31 December 2012 and immediately assumes the membership of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on 1 January 2013 for a three-year term.

A thorough assessment will be made on South Africa's tenure in the UN Security Council. South Africa continues to actively participate in the UN General Assembly inter-governmental negotiations on the reform of the United Nations, in particular the UN Security Council, to make the UN more responsive to the needs of the developing world and representative of geo-political realities.

Given the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) mandate as the primary organ responsible for the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security, it is essential that the UNSC is representative, democratic and transparent in its composition and functioning.

As recent events have demonstrated, the current composition and functioning of the Council has the tendency to result in deadlock between the Permanent Members of the Council, rendering the Council unable to respond to global crises. Ultimately this affects the Council's legitimacy. This is why South Africa strongly supports the reform of the UN, specifically the UN Security Council.

The debate on the reform of the United Nations in particular the Security Council, has been going on for the past eighteen years, but with no significant movement forward.

The Security Council needs to be expanded in both categories of membership, Permanent and Non-Permanent, in order to provide Africa, Latin America and Asia with a greater voice in the body. The main obstacle to reform of the UN Security Council is the diverse positions held by member states and the challenge of building sufficient support in order to take binding decisions.

South Africa continues to maintain that progress could be reached through compromise based on negotiations focusing on key areas, including the veto, regional representation and the number of seats per region. South Africa supports the common African position, as embodied in the Ezulwini Consensus, which inter alia calls for the expansion of the UN Security Council in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, with two permanent seats to be allocated to Africa.

BRICS Summit 2013

Government envoys are currently visiting BRICS countries as part of the consultations towards the 5th BRICS Summit. Following consultations with the BRICS countries, the envoys will report back to the BRICS Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), which is overseeing Summit preparations, in order to finalise arrangements for South Africa's hosting of the Fifth BRICS Summit scheduled for 26 - 27 March 2013 under the theme "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation."

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