|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY SOUTH AFRICA PRESIDENT
Today’s high-level Security Council meeting on the relationship between the United Nations and regional organizations, in particular the African Union, in the maintenance of international peace and security had agreed on the need to strengthen the cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on matters of peace and security, Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s President, told correspondents this afternoon.
During a press conference at United Nations Headquarters, he said that South Africa, the current President of the Council, had called for a high-level meeting on the issue, because Africa absorbed the bulk of the peace and security activities of the United Nations, with 60 per cent of the United Nations peacekeeping operations taking place on the continent. The United Nations and the African Union must, therefore, act together to improve peace and security in Africa.
He said an agreement had been reached on the need to strengthen the African capacity to address such matters, among other things by strengthening the institutions of the African Union. In unanimously adopted resolution 1809 (2008), the Council had agreed that the Secretary-General would, within three months, set up a high-level panel of United Nations and African Union people that would make specific proposals about what should be done to improve the effectiveness of the cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations, including in matters of financing and training.
Expressing his satisfaction with the high-level attendance, he said the leadership of the African Union was there, including African Union Chair Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania; African Union Peace and Security Council Chair, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; as well as the Chair of the African Union Commission, Alpha Konare. The members of the Peace and Security Council would continue their engagement with the United Nations tomorrow. There was also important attendance from members of the Security Council.
Asked if he would agree to a request by the Secretary-General for international supervision of the elections in Zimbabwe, President Mbeki said that matter should be put to the Government of Zimbabwe. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had been dealing with the matter for some time. It was now waiting for an announcement. If election results indicated that no one had reached an absolute majority of 50 per cent plus one vote, then there would be a second round. That second round should be handled in the same way as the first round, with no violence and everybody being allowed to campaign everywhere in the country. United Nations involvement should be discussed with the Member State.
Answering other correspondents’ questions about Zimbabwe, he said that, if the situation deteriorated and became a threat to peace and security, then the matter should be on the Security Council agenda. Everybody, however, was keen that the election process be completed.
Explaining his style of diplomacy, as opposed to the “loud” and critical diplomacy of some Western countries, he said that the solution of the problem, first of all, lay in the hands of the people of Zimbabwe. In his engagement with the situation, there was a need to talk continually, both with the governing party and the opposition. That approach had been formalized by SADC, when that body formally asked South Africa to facilitate the process.
He said that many conflict situations on the continent had been handled, such as in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Comoros. Agreement had never been reached by “negotiating through the media”. In the negotiating process, one should not shout at people, but to sit down with them and approach the problems, including with the opposition parties. The matter could not be solved by issuing press statements.
Addressing his alleged expression that “there is no crisis in Zimbabwe”, he denied ever having said it. He had answered a question about the elections in Zimbabwe by pointing out what had happened during and after the elections and saying, at that time, that the High Court still had to make a ruling.
In response to another question, President Mbeki also denied that, because both he and President Mugabe came from the “liberation movement”, he could not be objective about Mugabe. He added that he was perfectly capable of seeing something wrong, if there was something wrong. The fact that he participated in the mediation process indicated that there was something wrong. Why would he mediate if everything was alright? he asked.
Asked about south-south cooperation in Africa, he said that Africa had several subregions. In the southern part of Africa, 14 countries had come together on the need to cooperate in the Southern African Development Community, where they tried to create a free trade area. From that starting point, there could be expansion to cooperation with other subregions.
There was also cooperation between the African continent and India, he answered to another question. India had agreed, for instance, to immediately provide duty-free and quota-free access to products from all least developed countries, most of which are in Africa. India had also increased its credit lines to the African continent.
To a question on concerns about a “Durban II”, given the fact that the United States had walked away during “Durban I” -– the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance –- President Mbeki said there was still discussion taking place about where Durban II would take place. South Africa was, of course, interested in a follow-up to the matter of the struggle against racism, because that was still a very serious problem. He hoped that, this time, nobody would stay away, because the problem of racism was serious.
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