Visit to South Africa
THE MINISTER – I would like first of all to thank Ms Mashabane with all my heart for her warm welcome today and for the quality of our discussions throughout this morning’s work. We have spoken a great deal by telephone over the last months but I must say that it is nicer to talk with you, Madam, face to face.
We agreed to intensify our contacts and meet whenever necessary to exchange our views. We share common views on many issues and it was obvious this morning. Sometimes we have some differences of course. It is completely normal, and the only way to reduce those differences is to talk to each other and to strengthen our dialogue.
We are ready to do so in the coming period.
Six months after President Zuma’s State visit to Paris, I am pleased to be in South Africa to deepen the partnership between our two countries. As you know, France has unceasingly considered South Africa, the continent’s greatest economic power, a major partner. South Africa is a member of the United Nations Security Council, a permanent member of the G20 – and we were very happy to welcome President Zuma to Cannes last week – and a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council.
We are working together on all the world’s crises, in particular Syria, the Middle East peace process, piracy, the Horn of Africa, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. We are working together on global governance and the reform of the United Nations Security Council, where France, as you know, is advocating greater representation for Africa. We are working together on global issues such as development. I welcome South Africa’s courageous commitment, like France, to implement a financial transaction tax. We are working together on climate change, ahead of the COP17 at the end of the month, which South Africa will host in Durban. As you know, France is very committed to these issues, and particularly to the creation of a World Environment Organization, which would be based in Africa, of course.
Lastly, we are working together on bilateral issues, in particular on trade issues and investment prospects. French businesses are keen to work even more in South Africa and I invite South African businesses to invest in France.
Let me say also that I have been very happy to meet some members of the civil society of South Africa yesterday. In Soweto, at the French Institute of South Africa, at the South African Institute of International Affairs, and with civil society representatives this morning, I felt, like in 1994, the extraordinary momentum and optimism of the South Africans and their collective desire to overcome economic and social challenges. I was impressed by this optimism, which is not common in Europe at the moment, as you know. I will have to come back again to stay a longer period and tour your beautiful country. Madam Minister, I very much enjoyed our conversation and I would love to have the opportunity to continue to work with you.
Thank you very much.
AU COMMISSION CHAIR
Q. – (on the possibility for France to support the South African candidate for the African Union Commission chair)
THE MINISTER – To be frank, I am very surprised about this discussion on France’s position on the election of the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union. Very often we are suspected of intervening in domestic affairs on the African continent – that’s not the new line of France’s Africa policy as it was outlined by the French President here, in Cape Town, in 2008. We are keen on respecting a strict neutrality and we do not support any candidate in this election. It is up to the African countries to make that decision and we will respect this decision whatever it may be. I said that to President Zuma yesterday, so I was surprised this morning when I heard that I said to President Zuma that we will support one candidate over another, namely Mr Ping over Mrs Zuma. I never said that; I said France will be neutral.
Q. [to Minister Mashabane] – Can you give me some insight into your talks with Minister Juppé regarding Libya given that you’ve had a strong view on this issue and France a very different one?
THE MINISTER – On Libya, it is well known that we did not have the same interpretation of UNSCR 1973. But this is in the past and now we are looking to the future of Libya and we fully agree that we have to support the NTC to build democracy in the country, and we are ready to cooperate in that direction.
On Syria, we share the same view: the use of violence against the civilian population and the manner in which regime is behaving today are unacceptable and so we agree to increase our pressure on the Syrian authorities to stop this operation, to launch a programme of reforms, meeting the expectations of the Syrian people. France is rather sceptical towards the goodwill of the Syrian authorities, but there is no question of military intervention in Syria. I have tried to explain to my dear colleague that the resolution we are supporting in the Security Council is completely different from UNSCR 1973. It is another situation, another approach to try to solve this very difficult issue.
Q. – In your speech at SAIIA [South African Institute of International Affairs] yesterday, you seemed to be suggesting that you hoped South Africa might take a more assertive position in seeking a seat on the UN Security Council and France and Britain have taken the lead there in proposing at least a transitional arrangement. Could you give some sense of the way forward?
THE MINISTER – France expressed itself several times to say that the present structure of the Security Council no longer reflects the reality of a 21st-century world. To change this we have to reform the Security Council, to open it to other regions, to other major players in the world, and especially to African countries. It is up to the African countries, obviously, to choose who will represent them in the Security Council as permanent members or as non-permanent members. As you know, the debate on reform has been stalled, and it will be difficult to go ahead under current conditions. However, France remains fully committed to reaching a new composition of the Security Council.
AU COMMISSION CHAIR
Q. – Did you or any member of your delegation speak to any South African officials about the candidacy of our home affairs minister (Ms Dlamini Zuma) for the AU commission chair and Mr Ping? Apart from stating what you’ve already said, was there any discussion about this?
THE MINISTER – This question is quite surprising for me because I know very well all the members of my delegation and I trust them, so I would be very surprised to learn that some of them have a different view on this issue from the one I have expressed. Nevertheless, I would like to reassure you that France is democratic and organized in its diplomacy, and the only person who brings the voice of France in the international community is the Minister and not the so-called “member of his delegation”, so there is no ambiguity on this point./.
¹ M. Juppé spoke in English.