Deputy Ministers and Special Envoys for the MENA region,
Heads of the Senior Officials Meeting,
Members of the Media,
It gives me great pleasure to chair the Ninth BRICS Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region Deputy Ministers and Special Envoys Meeting. This is our first in person/hybrid meeting since 2019. On that note I want to extend a warm welcome to you and hope that you enjoy your stay in Cape Town. I am looking forward to our positive deliberations on developments in the MENA region, and adoption of our joint outcome statement.
I want to thank our senior officials and technical experts for preparing our BRICS Joint Outcome Statement on the MENA region.
We meet at a time of significant global, continental and regional challenges which include, but are not limited to addressing food security, energy security, climate change, conflict and instability.
There seems to be a quiet but incremental geopolitical change taking place in the Middle East right now. Firstly, the region is entering a new phase of friendly relations with the resumption of diplomatic relations between Suadi Arabia and Iran. This positive rapprochement was facilitated by the People’s Republic of China on 10 March 2023 in Beijing. We warmly welcome this agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, to re-open their Embassies and missions in the next two months. We maintain that the rapprochement between these two countries will greatly contribute towards peace, stability and development in the region. We equally welcome and are proud of the role played by our fellow BRICS member, The Peoples Republic of China, as well as the role played by Oman and Iraq, in the mediation and facilitation of this agreement.
Secondly, another positive development in the region, which we should welcome took place in April this year, when the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met with Syrian President Bashar. The visit was designed to find a political solution to Syria’s civil war and the normalisation of Saudi Syrian relations.
The year 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, that led to the occupation and displacement of Palestinians from their homelands. Since 1948, the Palestinian people have been subjected to countless injustices and an ongoing cycle of destruction, displacement, dispossession, and progressive fragmentation of their territory.
South Africa is deeply concerned by the continuing levels of violence and grave attacks directed against Palestinians in recent months by Israeli settlers and Israeli occupation forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The brutality and provocative rhetoric of these actions perpetuates an endemic cycle of violence which is not conducive to peace, and detracts from a just settlement, based on a two-State solution.
Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine discriminates against and violates Palestinians legitimate rights. In this regard, we must be resolute in upholding international law, international human rights law and humanitarian law. We are therefore encouraged by the decision of the UN General Assembly to request an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ on “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
South Africa remains committed to a solution, which is premised on a just settlement with just laws that are rights-based. We reiterate our support for the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate rights including but not limited to their right to self-determination.
One of the biggest security challenges in the MENA remains the issue of violent extremism, terrorism, and armed conflict through both traditional and non-traditional asymmetrical and non-linear warfare. The rise of violent extremist terrorist groups over the past decade such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and AQIM amongst others has caused great damage to the region and beyond.
To this end we as BRICS must condemn terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism. South Africa is of the view that only through ongoing cooperation, continuous assessment of the threat and sharing of information, can we begin to make progress in addressing this challenge and enhancing our capabilities and effectiveness in addressing our specific contexts in countering terrorism. We support the efforts of the United Nations, which is best placed to deal with this threat in all its forms, helping to develop international consensus and promoting international standards for countering terrorism, whilst ensuring global efforts are rooted in respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. We must also acknowledge the work done by various institutions and countries to fight terrorism. In this regard we commend our fellow BRICS partner India for hosting the special Session of the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in Mumbai and Delhi in October last year. We furthermore welcome the Delhi Declaration on countering the use of emerging technologies for terrorist purposes at the special session of the CTC of the UNSC.
BRICS must continue to prioritise regional and continental peace, stability, security and development as the main components towards contributing to a sustainable peaceful and just global order based on international law. In this regard we should support the need to achieve an enduring and mutually acceptable political solution to the question of Western Sahara in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions. Accordingly, we must express our support for the full implementation of the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which will ultimately address one of the remaining decolonisation issues on the African Continent.
In conclusion, the importance of addressing conflict and security concerns through dialogue and inclusive consultations in a coordinated and cooperative manner is a ‘’sine qou non’’ for a peaceful, secure and stable Middle East and North Africa. As the BRICS collective let us reaffirm our commitment to the basic principle of building peace, security and stability in the MENA region.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road