#SAForeignPolicy – Zuma on Al Bashir, Syria, Ebola and Sudan

President Jacob Zuma has presented an update to foreign ambassadors and high commissioners resident in South Africa today. In his address, the President discussed South Africa’s standpoint on various African and foreign policy issues…including his opinion on who’s to blame for the current refugee crisis and whether Al Bashir should be allowed to attend a conference in South Africa later this year.

President Jacob Zuma addresses the 7th Inkosi Matomela Heritage Day celebration in Greytown. (Photo: GCIS)
President Jacob Zuma, seen here addressing the 7th Inkosi Matomela Heritage Day celebration recently in Greytown. (Photo: GCIS)

The event – Comprehensive Briefing on International Relations – was held at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria and focused on peace and security. Here are the main points the President raised:

On South Sudan…

The President said “we are concerned” with ongoing conflict in South Sudan and reiterated South Africa’s support for the signing of the Malian Peace and Reconciliation agreement.

Deputy President Ramaphosa will continue to represent South Africa on this issue, he said. He also urged the East African Community to continue its political dialogue to find a lasting solution to Burundi.

The President also condemned terrorism in Somalia, Kenya, Mali, eastern Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

On Illegal Immigration…

The President says the government has been working with the South African Development Community (SADC) to “find a solution to illegal immigration.”

He said SADC is challenged by borders which don’t effectively act as barriers and said innovative solutions are required.

On Emigration from Africa and the Middle East…

The President laid the blame for the “flying…flocking” of refugees to Europe on NATO, claiming that the “painful truth” is that it was the result of their “interference”. and that the bombarding of Libya and killing of its leader lead to the current unstable environment. Africa had a roadmap before they interfered, he said. He said the expanding refugee crisis is a manifestation of the impact of war and poverty and that before the “Arab Spring” there was “no migration crisis”.

On Ebola, the UN and Palestine…

The President says a success story of note – when the United Nations General Assembly meets next week –  will be the “significant progress” made by Liberia and Sierra Leone in combatting Ebola.

As part of G77 with China, Zuma said the group will advocate for reform of the UN system to make it more responsive.

The President hailed the UNGA’s approval for the Palestinian flag to fly in front of UN head quarters as a great victory for peace and said an “urgent solution” is needed for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

The President reported that South African envoys to the MIddle East have concluded consultations in Palestine, Isreal, Jordan, Iran, UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt and Syria.

On Cuba…

Zuma welcomed the release of the #CubanFive and mentioned their recent visit to South Africa.

On Syria…

He said the painful human tragedy of 4-million Syrian refugees reminds us of the need to find a lasting solution…and emphasised that the international community must reject external military interference in Syria in order to achieve lasting peace.

He pointed out that it took It took “the painful picture of a drowning 4-year-old Syrian child to shake the world” and called on “our European partners” and Syria’s neighbours to assist the refugees. The President also pledged South Africa’s support.

On G20 and other conferences…

South Africa will attend the G20 forum in Istanbul, Turkey, in October, as well as the third India-Africa Partnership Conference next month. Zuma said South Africa will continue to pursue economic cooperation and advocate for a reform of international financial institutions.

South Africa will also participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta later this year, as well as the Climate Change conference in Paris at the end of the year.

On Al Bashir and #FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation)…

Questions have arisen about whether President Al Bashir of Sudan will attend the #FOCAC conference which South Africa is hosting in December. Zuma said “it should be remembered that Sudan is a member of #FOCAC hence it is expected” that its government will attend.

He also said that the SA government is aware of the order made by the ICC, and the case relating to President Bashir visiting South Africa in June. He said the governmnet is “studying the order” and will determine whether a course of action “if any” should be taken.

After President Zuma’s address, the South African and foreign ministers gathered in separate rooms in the building to hold more informal discussions.