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South Africa and Iran take steps to intensify cooperation

30 September 2016

The Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Nomaindiya Mfeketo, hosted her Iranian counterpart, Dr Jaberi  Ansari, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs  of the Islamic Republic of  Iran, in Pretoria on 29 September 2016 for bilateral consultations in accordance with the mandate of the South Africa-Iran Deputy Ministerial Working Group (DMWG), which provides oversight in monitoring and guiding bilateral political and economic relations between the two countries.

Dr. Ansari was accompanied by the Acting Deputy Minister of Oil in Iran, Dr  Hashemian, as well as senior officials from other departments and representatives from the Iranian private sector.

The DMWG remains an important diplomatic instrument as part of the South Africa - Iran Joint Commission to consolidate and elevate bilateral political, economic and people to people relations between South Africa and Iran into a substantive strategic partnership that will benefit both countries and its peoples. Towards this end, the DMWG reviewed progress regarding the implementation of mutually agreed upon strategies and  bilateral  Programs of Action ( POA) within targeted sectors of cooperation in in among other the fields of trade, banking, energy, agriculture, mining, education, health, tourism, defence, infrastructure development, science and technology and manufacturing.

The DMWG implemented the following principles and criteria aimed at strengthening South Africa-Iran trade, economic and investment relations:

•    Assessed the status of implementation of current areas of bilateral cooperation;
•    Identified strategic areas of future cooperation;
•    Identified responsible and specialist entities to monitor progress and secure implementation;
•    Isolated challenges and solutions in implementing bilateral projects;

The DMWG also measured the implementation of the outcomes of the State Visit of President Zuma to the Islamic Republic in April 2016 and, in particular, progress regarding the implementation of the eight Memoranda of Understanding concluded during President Zuma’s visit. In this respect, the DMWG confirmed that solid progress had been recorded and follow-up activities will be undertaken in the following areas:

-    In the Banking sector, measures will be implemented in support of normalising financial relations and to create an enabling environment for business on both sides to conclude transparent financial transactions inclusive of the establishment of corresponding banking relations.

-    A Joint Trade and Industry Working Group will be established in accordance with the provisions of the MOU concluded between the Parties to focus on joint expertise transfers and skills development, resources and research capacity, combined market size including competitive advantages in targeted and mutually agreed upon sectors. In this respect the formalisation and operationalization of the South Africa–Iran Business Council has been identified as a strategic priority in strengthening bilateral trade and commercial relations.

-    A Joint Energy Working Group will be created to explore bilateral cooperation within the broader energy sector in support of SA’s energy security needs including hydro, solar and wind energy, geo thermal energy, energy efficiency, technology exchanges, skills development, gas infrastructure development as well as cooperation in the petrochemical refining sector.

-    Within the ambit of Science and Technology, the Parties agreed to intensify cooperation pertaining to skills transfers, innovation and training and technology exchanges between research foundations in identified areas. Science and technology play an important role in the National Development Plans of both countries

-    With regard to Transport, a process is underway to establish direct air links to stimulate trade and tourism between South Africa and Iran.

-    The MOU in Agriculture concluded between South Africa and Iran provides for the establishment of Technical Teams aimed at strengthening cooperation in the export/import of agricultural products, agro processed goods, fisheries and aquaculture.

-    Defence cooperation will be formalised with the conclusion of a bilateral Defence Cooperation Agreement, which is currently under negotiation.

-    Bilateral Cooperation in the fields of Water and Sanitation will continue, with  particular emphasis on skills transfer and exchanges pertaining to service delivery in the rural context.

The DMWG agreed that the lifting of nuclear related sanctions against Iran in January 2016 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action ( JCPOA) reached between Iran and the P5 +1 augurs well for the consolidation and elevation of the full spectrum of the bilateral relationship.

South Africa and Iran have maintained a close and significant relationship over many decades. Despite the damage done to particularly trade, economic and investment relations as a result of unilateral international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, the DMWG confirmed the positive momentum and strong nature of the bilateral relationship.

The two countries have agreed to deepen diplomatic, political, trade, economic and investment relations. The DMWG called on South African and Iranian business to utilise the high potential that exists to conduct mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations in the following priority sectors:

•    Petrochemical, gas exploration and alternative energy;
•    Agricultural products agro processed goods and services and food processing equipment;
•    Automotive industries and manufacturing;
•    Mining, raw materials and strategic metals;
•    Medical and pharmaceutical;
•    Chemicals, forestry , paper and furniture;
•    Clothing, textiles and leather;
•    Construction, engineering and transport;
•    Financial, banking and insurance;
•    Tourism, hospitality infrastructure, management and training;
•    Retail and franchising; and
•    Ocean economy  

The DMWG also reviewed global and regional peace, security and stability challenges in relation to international terrorism and the serious threat of extremist violence to human security. The Parties agreed to cooperate as part of a credible and constructive international effort to end the conflict in Syria and for the humanitarian devastation to be addressed internationally and regionally as a matter of extreme urgency. The DMWG also underscored the critical necessity to address the Palestinian question and for serious dialogue and negotiations to commence aimed at implementing a lasting, fair and just solution.

The DMWG confirmed the importance of regular high level bilateral dialogue to implement decisions of the SA-Iran Joint Commission and the role of the DMWG in monitoring and guiding agreed upon bilateral projects. The DMWG also confirmed that the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran President HE Hassan Rouhani has accepted the invitation from HE President Jacob Zuma to visit South Africa in early 2017 during which time the SA-Iran Joint Commission is also scheduled to meet.   

Photo: Jacoline Schoonees


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