Deputy minister of international relations and cooperation Nomaindiya Mfeketo, on Monday ended the first leg of an official visit by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to three Levant countries; Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
Mfeketo explained that though South Africa has relations with the countries, no formal visit has been made to the region.
She said that while the purpose of the visit is to discuss current economic relations, which due the current unrest have not been addressed, South Africa hopes to strengthen ties with the region in this challenging period.
“It is important for us as a country and a friend to pay a visit, so that we can understand what the challenges are and how we can be of assistance in finding a solution.”
Though her visit to Jordan is complete, she said that a memorandum of understanding will be signed between Jordan and South Africa, which will further cement economic relations.
Mfeketo explained that various South African companies are planning the construction of a factory in Jordan and that the Kingdom has shown interest in South Africa’s ability with regards to the agriculture.
The refugee crisis
She further noted that Jordan, in an attempt to improve the Middle East crisis, is focusing on the issues of health and education of Palestinians and, therefore, requires the assistance of investment from the international community.
“Jordan in particular, is shouldering refugees that are coming from Syria and for many years it has been responsible for hosting the Palestinian refugees, which is the reason why I decided to begin the visits in Jordan.”
Mfeketo said that the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) has greatly impacted the education of Palestinian refugees with the establishment of approximately 600 schools for Palestinian refugees in Jordan alone.
In addition, UNRWA has also established clinics in order to facilitate the care of refugees within the region.
The Syrian refugee crisis and South Africa
She affirmed that the Syrian conflict and the consequent refugee crisis are of concern to the Government of South Africa.
“As BRICS partners, these are some of the things that we are in the process of discussing, as part of the countries that seek to find a solution,” she said.
Mfeketo said that the international community needs to find an all-inclusive solution to the Syrian issue.
“We are totally against a solution that begins to talk about a regime change. [But] There are serious attempts to resolve the conflict amicably,” she continued.
While the refugee crisis continues to be met with opposition in Europe, Mfeketo said that the issue is being attended to by many NGO’s both in Jordan and Syria, but asserted that the crisis can be mitigated by speedily finding a solution to end the conflict.
Though South Africa has not formally adopted a policy instituting a willingness to accept refugees, the minister said that regional conflicts will more directly impact the nationality of refugees that infiltrate a country.
“This is why it is important for South Africa to be part of the dialogue that finds a solution, since we are part of the global community, so we cannot adopt an attitude that says that it will never affect South Africa,” Mfeketo said.