Minister of Foreign Affairs: briefing

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International Relations

26 September 2001
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Meeting report

26 September 2001


The Minister of Foreign Affairs discussed two significant issues which dominate foreign policy matters at present. These were the Millenium African Plan and the New Africa Initiative and the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. The World Conference on racism was presented as successful.

New Africa Initiative
Dr Dlamini-Zuma, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that as Africans our fortunes are tied to the continent. In September 1999 the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) decided to advance the OAU into the African Union. This would include an African parliament and Abuja Treaty arrangements. The decisions were ratified in May 2000. In July 2001 in Zambia it was decided to commence the transitional period of one year for the African Union to come into force.

There is now public promotion of the African Union (AU) instead of the OAU, including its legal requirement of civil society involvement. The Secretary General of the OAU is establishing a team to operationalise the AU, to include a committee of foreign ministers as well as the Addis Ababa staff. May 25 will remain Africa Day. The next summit to launch the African Union will be held in South Africa in July 2002. Parliamentary roles with civil society have to be formulated.

The OAU 2000 summit in Lome had charged three presidents to propose an initiative for poverty alleviation in Africa. Their emphasis is upon the issues of trade, the digital divide and debt. The Millenium African Plan MAP is an African initiative by Africans, but it needs capital from the developed world. The G8 meeting in Genoa has been followed by the OAU's selection of 15 African presidents to carry this forward. SADC has decided on three of the 15 representatives being South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia.

World Trade Centre and the Pentagon
The attacks on the WTC and Pentagon on September 11 require study on if or how the balance in international relationships has changed. Fighting terrorism requires international cooperation. The United States has asked for our assistance, but not military intervention. The implication for South Africa is to step up the fight against terrorism, but a calm approach is needed. The US is freezing assets and bank accounts. Economic implications may be extensive, including the impact on tourism.

The situation in the Middle East is not changed by September 11. South Africa has not played an important role, but as chair of the Non Aligned Movement we have certain responsibilities and must therefore interact with all role players. The Middle East situation needs to be sorted out. Palestinians have a right to self-determination, and Israel's own peace and security hinges upon satisfying these rights.

World Conference Against Racism
The World Conference Against Racism in Durban came about because the UN realised that every country has racism problems, and that racism is increasing especially in the West. Racism demeans all of us as humans, and contradicts the aims of the UN Charter. For South Africa, this conference had many dimensions especially because of our history. South Africa is unique - we are trying to come together, yet we are also a microcosm of the world problem. Preparations of the conference were not our responsibility, but certain countries decided that they might not attend were slavery to be included in the agenda. Clearly a conference on racism which did not deal with slavery or colonialism would be inappropriate. These countries pretended that the conference should not deal with the past, but only look to the future. The other issue given prominence was the Middle East. In our view the conference was successful. We now have to consider how to take this forward.

Mr Ramgobin asked given the threat of chemical warfare, how can South Africa assist especially with past experiences of for instance, Wouter Basson? What initiatives can be developed with the intelligence community? The world condemns the WTC attacks, but within the paradigm of terrorism, should South Africa not take the lead in exposing international economic terrorism? For instance, one institution in New York had devastating economic impact in South Korea. Will the Africa Initiative now be derailed?

An ANC youth representative stated that the US is reported to have created Bin Laden, Savimbi, etc. Is the US government not also culpable in creating the conditions for the WTC attacks? Similarly, the Israeli government's actions against Palestinians?

Ms Mohamed asked about the IMF's principles. Pakistan is now being provided with financial assistance.

Mr Geldenhuys stated will terrorists and freedom fighters be redefined post September 11th? What about the IRA and PLO?

Mr Sigwela asked what about the international peace movements?

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that we are already sharing information regarding chemical warfare.
We need to debate issues, but it is important not to forget that the UN Security Council is the basis of collective security in the world. The UN needs to develop proper conventions, but it also needs reformation. We are in a different era from the post World War Two period. Until the UN is reformed, it is impeded in its ability to serve its role as the basis for collective security. The developed countries still dominate. The need for reform at the UN applies also at the IMF. We need a UN Convention to define terrorism, and to distinguish a just struggle such as our own in which the ANC were branded as terrorists. Economic terrorism must be included in such definitions when countries of the North are so able to disrupt poorer countries. Peace movements come from debates of ordinary men and women, and citizens of the world.


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