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Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen both here in Cape Town and in Pretoria. We have a comprehensive briefing today covering a wide range of issues.
Let me start with the Ministerial Meeting currently underway in Luanda convened by the Republic of Angola in its capacity as Chair of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
The purpose of the Joint SADC-ICGLR Ministers' Meeting is to consider the political and security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), especially in the eastern part of the country, following the surrender of the M23 and the beginning of a process of voluntary disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which is known by its French abbreviation FDLR. South Africa welcomes this development.
The meeting is attended by ministers and senior officials representing member states of the ICGLR and SADC and is part of a process agreed to during the first historic Joint Summit of the SADC and ICGLR held in November 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa. The meeting forms part of concerted efforts by the two regional bodies to bring stability in the DRC.
On the AU Summit.
The African Union just concluded the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly on 26-27 June 2014 in Malabo where President Jacob Zuma led the South African delegation.
The year 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Therefore, the summit was held under theme “Year of Agriculture and Food Security - Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development”.
Alongside this theme, an African Agri-Business and Gender Forum was held on 22 June to enable stakeholders, including women, in the agribusiness sector to discuss and develop concrete strategies on enhancing public-private partnerships and investment financing for African agriculture.
In this regard, South Africa welcomed the decision to declare 2014, the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa as an affirmation of the importance attached to the food and nutrition crisis facing the African continent.
The CAADP Focal Point and other multi-stakeholder teams at national and provincial levels were put in place in South Africa as necessary institutional arrangements for its implementation.
Ladies and gentleman,
The African Union Heads of State and Government also discussed peace and security matters, in particular the mobilisation of resources and operationalisation of the African Capacity for Immediate Crisis (ACIRC).
This follows a decision last year to operationalise the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises as an interim mechanism, until the African Standby Force is established.
The countries that have volunteered to contribute resources to the ACIRC met during the Summit to discuss the state of readiness of the ACIRC.
The African Union Commission concluded its verification visits to the contributing countries and presented a report on the framework for the operationalisation of the ACIRC, which was endorsed by the contributing countries. It is expected that the ACIRC will be launched by October 2014. This is an major milestone as it means an important decision of the AU has been implemented.
Ladies and gentleman,
Whilst still on continental issues,
The South African Government welcomes and respects the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council to lift the suspension of Egypt in the AU’s activities and invited that country to immediately resume its participation.
The South African Government stands ready to assist the government and people of Egypt where required as they seek to rebuild their country in accordance with the popular aspirations of the Egyptian people following the recent election.
The South African Government further notes the progress that Egypt has made in the formal restoration of constitutional order as recognised by the Final Report of the African Union (AU) High-Level Panel for Egypt and the 442nd Meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council.
The South African Government, however, wishes to express its deep concern over the increased suppression of media freedom and freedom of expression which contravenes the international instruments on human rights, and in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states in article 19 "the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers".
We will continue engaging with the authorities in that country through available diplomatic channels on this and other matters.
The South African Government remains concerned about the fate of the abducted school girls from Chibok in Nigeria and the continuing terrorist activities perpetrated by Boko Haram which continue to claim many lives of innocent civilians.
In this regard, the South African Government reiterates its condemnation of all forms and manner of terrorism and from whichever quarter.
South Africa will continue to support the actions taken by the African Union in support of Nigeria and other countries where the scourge of terrorism and armed groupings impact on the lives of innocent people and impede development.
President Zuma has in recent times expressed concern regarding the activities of armed groupings in various African countries and called on the African Union (AU) to activate requisite measures aimed at ensuring long-lasting peace and stability on the continent. This underscores the importance of the decision of the recent AU summit to launch the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises in October.
The South African Government has noted that the parties to the Coalition Government in the Kingdom of Lesotho have met and agreed to work together to resolve the challenges facing the Coalition Government.
In this regard, the South African Government commends the parties on this development and remains hopeful that the Coalition Government will be able to overcome their current political challenges and continue to work together for peace and stability of the country.
The South African Government has noted with regret the latest developments regarding the fate of the 3 Israeli teenagers who were previously kidnapped and the reactions from both Israel and Palestine.
The South African Government calls upon all parties involved to exercise restraint, including a halt to the arbitrary arrest of Palestinian citizens and the use of collective punishment of Palestinians and the disturbance of their social and economic rights.
South Africa furthermore urges both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to cooperate and find an amicable solution. South Africa believes that this unfortunate event should not be used from whatever quarter to cast aspersions on the legitimate existence of the Unity Government in Palestine, whose advent has been wholly welcomed by the members of the international community.
The South African Government is convinced that the recent events should spur all the parties to recommit to the peace process.
South Africa enjoys bilateral relations with Israel and Palestine, and will continue to monitor the unfolding developments with keen interest.
The VI (Sixth) BRICS Summit in Brazil,
President Jacob Zuma will lead the South African delegation to the VI (Sixth) BRICS Summit that will be hosted by the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Ms Dilma Rousseff from 14 -16 July 2014.
The VI (Sixth) BRICS Summit will be the first Summit to be hosted in the second cycle of BRICS Summits and provides an opportune moment to reflect on the priority areas for cooperation during the second cycle of BRICS Summits. Since its first Summit, in 2009, BRICS has consolidated its position as a positive force for the democratization of international relations and for the enhancement of existing institutions of international governance. It has also forged an impressive partnership carrying out cooperation initiatives in more than 30 areas between its members.
Ladies and Gentleman,
It is worth noting that the South African Government has fully implemented the eThekwini Action Plan and will present a Hand-over report on sectoral cooperation during its tenure as BRICS Chairperson. The report highlights the progress made by South Africa during its tenure as Chairperson of BRICS in relation to the high-level meetings of BRICS Leaders chaired by President Jacob Zuma and Ministerial of BRICS Foreign Affairs Ministers chaired by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Other key BRICS Ministerial meetings hosted and chaired by South Africa include, inter alia, the BRICS National Security Advisors, Ministers responsible for Trade, Finance, Agriculture and Agrarian Affairs, Education, Health, Social Security, and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).
During South Africa’s tenure as Chairperson, substantive progress was achieved in anchoring the new BRICS mechanisms that were launched at the Fifth BRICS Summit, i.e. the BRICS Business Council as well as the BRICS Think Tanks Council and reports will be submitted to the BRICS Leaders on the work undertaken by these structures.
Brazil as the host and incoming Chairperson has identified that the theme of the Summit will be "BRICS- Inclusive growth: Sustainable solutions".
Among other topics, the Leaders will discuss issues regarding global governance and peace and security as well as the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and the receive reports on progress towards the establishment of the BIRCS led New Development Bank (NDB).
The CRA is an additional line of defence available to the BRICS countries in scenarios of Balance of Payments' difficulties. The NDB will finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects.
Issued by GCIS on behalf of Department of International Relations and Cooperation