28 April 2012
Opening remarks by Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim on the occasion of his meeting with Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia
Thank you for receiving my delegation and I, I am honoured to meet with you today.
Allow me the opportunity to convey to you the great significance South Africa attaches to its bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. From the onset of diplomatic relations in 1993, South Africa and Saudi Arabia have maintained good political, economic and trade relations, established by the bonds of friendship and a commitment to partnership.
Your Excellency, South Africa is pleased that the Joint Economic Commission just accorded its fourth successful session; this institution has development to constitute an important review of our bilateral relations and for the identification of areas for cooperation for the expansion thereof. Bilateral Trade between South Africa and Saudi Arabia for 2011 amounted to more than R37 billion. Notwithstanding trade relations; South Africa has significant investment interests in Saudi Arabia, through the established presence of various South African Multinational Companies in the engineering, hospitality and retail industries and health care profession.
South Africa and Saudi Arabia have maintained good political and economic relations and pursue joint cooperation in diverse fields, most notably, in the fields of Higher Education, Economics, trade and investment, and technical cooperation, Defence and Science and Technology, to this end, a Joint Defence Committee and a Joint Committee on Science and Technology has been established. In addition, various Bilateral Agreements in other fields are in various stages of negotiation.
Allow me to express the Government of South Africa’s appreciation for the important role the Kingdom assumes in the international arena and its support of the peaceful resolution of conflicts. South Africa further lauds the philanthropic nature displayed by the King, as the elected Chair of the UNRWA, for the generous assistance in medical and food aide to impoverished African countries and for the promotion of dialogue and the values of peace and tolerance, through the establishment of the Inter-Faith Dialogue
Your Excellency, if we are honest in our assessment, we have to acknowledge that relations between our two countries are not at the level that they should or could be. We appreciate the importance of Saudi Arabia in an international and regional context and have taken some steps to address the unsatisfactory state of affairs. President Jacob Zuma and my Minister of International Relations and Cooperation have extended invitations to the His Majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia to visit South Africa, respectively, and we hope that these visits can take place as soon as the Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of regular Bilateral Political Consultations is ready for signature. South Africa and Saudi Arabia have signed eight bilateral agreements, which provide the framework for co-operation. Furthermore, Your Excellency allow me to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to you to undertake a visit to South Africa to further strengthen our bilateral standing.
South Africa, in its tenure as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has contributed to the support of the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Yemen and Syria, and has fully associated itself through the adoption and issuance of Statements pronounced by the UNSC.
Saudi Arabia is presently the largest supplier of crude oil to South Africa. In February 2009, the South Africa – Saudi Arabia Business Council was launched with the specific purpose of increasing the volume of trade and the flow of investments between the two countries. South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority signed a MoU to facilitate the processes of entry of products into each other’s markets.
May I thank you, in conclusion, for the kind manner in which my delegation and I have been received by your Government. I look forward to our discussions and hope that we would be able to agree at the end thereof that we have contributed to the strengthening of our bilateral relations.
I thank you.
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road