On Wednesday President Jacob Zuma capped an historic meeting with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, which marked the first such interaction by the two leaders. During their discussions, Zuma reiterated government’s stance on wanting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, further condemning Israel for its continued expansion of illegal settlements, which were undermining peace talks between the two nations.
During the visit, Abbas recognized South Africa’s own struggles under an oppressive ‘Apartheid system’, saying Palestine would seek to use the countries experiences in overcoming their own oppression under Israel. He was also critical of Israel’s recent attempts to enact a new bill within its Knesset, which would have it declared a Jewish state.
Speaking to VOC’s Drivetime, Palestinian foreign minister, Dr Riad al-Malki, said the visit was significant in the sense that it would try and further cement an already historic relationship. The meeting had seen the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Commission, with the objective of further strengthening ties, as well as diversify those ties into sectors such as commerce.
With both countries having faced similar experiences of oppression under their own Apartheid legacies, Dr Malki was confident only positive things could come out of a ‘marriage’ between the two nations.
“I do believe it is going to be sustained for a long time. That is why I see it as historic from that dimension. Historic because we are trying to reactivate and re-energize our relationship, and put it at a new level of cooperation and development,” he said.
A notable fixture of Wednesdays discussions were Gaza conflict in July-August this year. During the meeting, Zuma vowed to assist with negotiations between Israel and Palestine, with the establishment of special envoys to the region. Dr Malki said this was proof of the concern and commitment shown by South Africa, towards alleviating the suffering the Palestinian people.
“The president has committed himself through the presidential envoys to continue in contact with us. This is in order to see what can be done on the part of South Africa, when it comes to matters like alleviating the suffering of people in Gaza, lifting the siege, and bringing normality into the situation in Gaza,” he noted.
He also took a swipe at Israel, for its implementation of ‘racist and discriminatory laws’ against Palestinians, with the sole purpose of making life difficult for them in East Jerusalem. He noted there were also currently debates within the Knesset, over the possibility of adopting a law that would declare Masjid al-Aqsa a purely Jewish site.
“That’s why we wanted to bring the attention of the international community about this situation in East Jerusalem, and to see if there is any possibility for a de-escalation of the situation. Unfortunately we have received many visitors who want to show concern, but no one has offered any kind of solution or way out,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)