PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has outlined South Africa’s foreign policy positions on several international issues, pledging to continue « our relentless work to achieve the reform of the United Nations, especially of the security council » at the next session of the world body.
But it was his off-the-cuff remarks on the refugee crisis engulfing Europe that got everyone’s attention.
Zuma said Europe had to take the blame for the crisis. Departing from his prepared speech to foreign diplomats in Pretoria, he said: « The bombarding of Libya and the killing of its leader opened the floodgates for serious tensions and conflict. »
The flood of refugees from Africa « was triggered by the undermining of the security situation ».
« The consistent, systematic bombing of Nato forces undermined security and caused the conflict that continues in Libya and the neighbouring countries. »
« They don’t want to accept the refugees. They caused it, » he said.
« Developing countries will also advocate for the reform of the United Nations system to make it more responsive to the interests and needs of the majority of its members. »
Zuma said Africa – « a continent with more than 1 billion people which is not represented in the United Nations security council as a permanent member » needed better representation on the body. « The world that is supposed to be just cannot have more than a billion people represented at a decision-making level. »
Turning to « some outstanding peace and security issues », Zuma said: « There can be no lasting peace in the middle east for as long as Palestinians are denied their inalienable right to a land of their own. »
He described the recent UN decision to allow Palestinian flag to fly outside its headquarters as a « great victory ».
Palestinians needed their own country « existing side-by-side and at peace with Israel » and « with east Jerusalem as its capital ».
Zuma said South Africa urged all parties to the Israel-Palestine conflict « to return to negotiations ».
Zuma outlined several steps that needed to be taken to bring an end to the conflict including that « all Palestinian parties and groupings need to form a cohesive collective solidarity front » and that Israel need to stop « the unacceptable blockade of Gaza ».
« Israel’s settlement programme including in East Jerusalem must be stopped, » he said.
Turning to the conflict in Western Sahara, he said: « The time has come for the United Nations to determine a date for the holding of a self-determination referendum for the people of western Sahara – the last colony in Africa. »