South Africa has again urged Russia to seek a negotiated settlement to the ‘terrible’ and ‘inhumane conflict’ in Ukraine ‘that is causing terrible harm’.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said in a media briefing on Monday that she would convey this message to her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone call later in the day.

Pandor recalled that in her last conversation with Lavrov, she had indicated that “we would want a process of diplomacy to be initiated between the two parties. And we believe the UN must lead… the UN Secretary-General, in particular”.

Pandor added that at the high-level start to the annual UN General Assembly meetings which President Ramaphosa would attend next week, South Africa would insist “that there needs to be greater effort at finding a resolution to this terrible conflict, and that the only way to do so would be through a negotiated settlement. And that all of us, as members of the UN, in particular the Security Council, need to play a role in ending this inhumane conflict that is causing terrible harm”.

Pandor’s spokesman denies SA refusal to condemn invasion

At the weekend, Pandor’s spokesperson Clayson Monyela denied the general impression that South Africa had in February refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“On the contrary, SA did condemn the invasion as a violation of international law, and continues to do so,” Monyela wrote in an op-ed in the Sunday Times.

He appeared to be referring to the statement that his department issued on 24 February, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, which said: “South Africa calls on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine in line with the United Nations Charter, which enjoins all member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice are not endangered.

“South Africa emphasises respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.”

This was perhaps an implicit condemnation of Russia’s invasion, although the next day President Ramaphosa appeared to negate it by publicly blaming Nato for Russia’s attack because of the expansion of its membership towards Russia’s borders, which Moscow said had threatened its security.

And on 2 March, South Africa abstained from a UN General Assembly resolution which explicitly condemned Russia for its “aggression” against Ukraine. Pretoria has since insisted on remaining “non-aligned” in the conflict, refusing to take sides.

Ramaphosa set for queen’s funeral after Biden talks

At Monday’s media briefing, Pandor also disclosed that Ramaphosa would attend the funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth next week. This suggested that Ramaphosa would fly to Washington to meet US President Joe Biden in the White House this Friday, travel to London for the funeral and then fly back to the US to participate in the UN General Assembly meeting.

Pandor said that South Africa would have a “high-level” presence at the inauguration of the newly elected William Ruto as president of Kenya on Tuesday. Her office later announced that Ruto had invited Ramaphosa, who had delegated Deputy President David Mabuza to represent South Africa.

Ramaphosa and Biden would discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest, including trade and investment, climate change, food security, energy, and peace and security, Pandor said.

“President Ramaphosa will reaffirm the importance of the strategic and mutually beneficial relations between South Africa and the United States. The president will further emphasise the need for enhanced multilateralism and dialogue as the means through which the challenges facing humanity can be addressed. These include the urgent need to stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the Covid pandemic.”

In Washington, Ramaphosa would also meet Congressional leaders and veterans of the civil rights movement “who were instrumental in lobbying the American public against apartheid and who remain loyal to the cause of anti-racism in both the United States and South Africa”.

Relations with US ‘cordial’

“South Africa and the United States enjoy historic and cordial relations,” Pandor said.

“The US is a major export market for South Africa, a significant source of foreign direct investment, technology transfer, development assistance and tourism. Trade and investment relations take place under the auspices of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which grants duty-free and quota-free access to the US market for value-added products.

“Agoa has created jobs in both South Africa and the US and is thus mutually beneficial.

“Over the years, two-way trade between South Africa and the United States has been on the increase. The United States is South Africa’s third-largest trading partner (after China and the European Union), with more than 600 United States companies operating within our borders.

“In 2021, the United States ranked as the second-largest destination for South Africa’s exports globally.

“South African firms have also become significant foreign investors in the United States. Investments from South Africa into the United States are on the increase, with the United States accounting for 17.4% of total South African outward foreign direct investment to the world.”

Source : Daily Maverick

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