South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation says the State of Palestine remains a priority on South Africa’s international diplomacy agenda.
“We will continue to use all multilateral platforms, regional bodies and platforms as well as our bilateral relations to continue to agitate for support for the basic human rights of the Palestinian peoples,” Alvin Botes told delegates at the Ministerial Committee of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Venezuela.
Botes restated Pretoria’s position on Palestine. “We will continue to campaign for the independence of Palestine under the two-state solution, based on the international recognition and independence of the viable State of Palestine, based on the 4 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
South Africa’s deputy foreign minister called on “the Israeli government to immediately end the continuous violation of international human rights committed against the Palestinians.”
Botes listed some of the Israeli violations, including the killing civilian protesters; injuring and unlawful detention and torture of Palestinian civilians, women and children in particular; the illegal removal of Palestinians from their homes and land; and the strangulation and discriminatory practises as it relates to basic services and water against the Palestinian people.
He pointed out that the absence of peace in the Middle East not only “compromises peace and stability in the Palestinian territories and Israel, it also hampers peace, stability and progress in the wider region and globally.”
NAM is a voice for peace, justice and equality, Botes said, and urged the Movement to advance the Palestinian cause with more zeal.
Botes lamented the fact that it’s been 71 years since the UN General Assembly approved Resolution 181 (II) recognising the partitioning of Palestine and proposed establishing two independent States which were supposed to coexist in peace and harmony.
“Today, instead of implementing the numerous resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council that calls for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories and from the other occupied Arab territories, the occupying force of Israel continues to impose new policies, which perpetuate the status quo, further discriminates against the Palestinians, and continues to undermine the efforts made by the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination,” Botes explained.
NAM needs to propose concrete measures or initiatives that may strengthen the Movement’s positions in support of the Palestinian cause, Botes said, adding, “we cannot afford to put the peace process on the backburner.”
He referred to South Africa’s own historical experience in ending Apartheid through peaceful means, saying, “only the Palestinians and Israelis can come to an agreement on all final status issues, including Jerusalem and refugees.
Botes also criticised the US approach to the crisis. “South Africa condemns the unilateral steps by certain countries, such as the US, that is making a two-state solution more difficult,” South Africa’s deputy foreign minister said.
“In this regard we are reminded that the United Nations has repeatedly declared that any unilateral decision that seeks to alter the character and status of Jerusalem or that may alter these long-standing principles could seriously undermine current peace efforts and will have long term repercussions across the region.”
“It must be unequivocally stated, that any proposed peace plan should not allow Palestinian statehood to devolve into an entity devoid of sovereignty, territorial contiguity and economic viability,” Botes emphasized.
“Let me remind our friends and colleagues of NAM of what the father of our nation South Africa Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela whose birthday we celebrated just days ago, and who said in 1995: ‘Our struggle is yet incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people,’’’ Botes concluded.