SA Committed to Middle East Peace Process

Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma says South Africa remains committed to the role it is playing in efforts to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The President was responding to a parliamentary question from a National Freedom Party MP, where he was asked to provide an update on the Special Envoys he sent to monitor the Israel-Palestine conflict.

At the height of the shelling of Gaza by Israel and the retaliatory attacks by Palestinian militant groups, President Zuma on 22 July appointed former Minister Zola Skweyiya and former Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad to travel to Israel, Palestine and other countries in the Middle East.

“The purpose of their visits was not to monitor the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … but to convey my message of grave concern over the conflict situation that saw the brutal and senseless killing of Palestinian civilians, including those who were seeking refuge in United Nations shelters, the destruction of their homes and socio-economic infrastructure in Gaza – a situation that created a dire humanitarian crisis,” said President Zuma.

The President said the Special Envoys Skweyiya and Pahad conveyed South Africa’s call for the warring parties to conclude an immediate and unconditional ceasefire agreement that would bring peace to the people of Gaza and allow them to rebuild their battered lives.

The ultimate goal, President Zuma said, was the resumption of genuine negotiations on the permanent resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the establishment of a viable Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, existing side by side in peace with Israel within internationally recognised borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967 prior to the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

During their meetings with the authorities the Special Envoys met in the Middle East, a request was made for South Africa to remain engaged in efforts to resolve the decades-long conflict.

Following visits to the Middle East, a Way-forward Strategy Document, which focuses on South Africa’s strength in negotiations, reconciliation and unity, was developed.

“The Way-forward Strategy Document will be implemented by the Special Envoys during the next few months, ending on 31 August 2015, as the Special Envoys have now been appointed for a period of one year, that is 1 September 2014 – 31 August 2014.

“Essential to the implementation of the Way-forward Strategy Document was the visit to South Africa by President Abbas to enable us to discuss elements of the Way-forward Strategy Document with him. The visit took place on 26 November and as a result, the Special Envoys will now continue with their programme in earnest,” said President Zuma.

He said to date, the following amount has been spent thus far on the mission: goods and services R2 861 030 compensationsalaries: R 494 076. –

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