Muammar Gadaffi has pledged to co-operate with South African authorities in finding photo journalist Anton Hammerl’s body, the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says. Hammerl was killed in the Libyan Desert on April 5, near the town of Brega, reportedly by pro-Gadaffi soldiers firing on him and fellow journalists.
Briefing the media following her Budget Vote in Parliament today, Nkoana-Mashabane said President Jacob Zuma, who returned from Libya today, had this morning confirmed to her that the Libyan leader had pledged his assistance in finding Hammerl’s body, the state BuaNews agency says.
However, Nkoana-Mashabane admitted that the search had “not been easy”, and stressed that it would be no easy task to comb through the area where Hammerl may be buried, especially with thousands of miles of desert terrain. She said the discussions yesterday between Zuma and Gadaffi were “very open and frank” and that Gadaffi had agreed there was a need to bring an end to the conflict in Libya.
However, she said Gadaffi had reiterated the call that the AU has been making, namely that the Nato bombings must be called off. She said delegates from the transitional council in Benghazi had also met with Zuma shortly before the President left for Libya for talks with Gadaffi.
The Presidency in media statement added Zuma and Gaddafi “held lengthy discussions at the Libyan leader’s home in Tripoli, and President Zuma will give a report on the visit to the chairperson of the African Union Ad-hoc High Level Committee on Libya His Excellency President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania.”
“President Zuma reiterated the African Union peace plan, especially the need for a ceasefire on all sides to enable a political dialogue amongst the Libyan people to begin,” the statement added.
“Gaddafi reiterated his agreement to a ceasefire and a dialogue of the Libyan people to find a political solution. He expressed his anger at the NATO bombings, which have claimed the lives of his son and grandchildren and continue to cause a destruction of property and disruption of life. Col Gaddafi called for an end to the bombings to enable a Libyan dialogue. He emphasised that he was not prepared to leave his country, despite the difficulties.”
Zuma was taken on a tour to see the destruction caused by the bombings and the deepening humanitarian crisis. “The personal safety of Col Gaddafi is of concern.” The president is satisfied with the progress made and is happy with the frankness of the discussions which have enabled him to gain an understanding of where the Libyan government stands on issues and the way forward, the statement avered.
“We call on all leaders in Libya to exercise decisive leadership to find a solution to the crisis in the country, and to put the interests of their country first. Nothing other than a dialogue among all parties in Libya can bring about a lasting solution. We will also reiterate the AU call for the NATO and other parties to respect the AU’s role in searching for a solution in the matter”, said Zuma.
Turning to recent developments, Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa had much to be proud of in the international sphere, including the country’s inclusion last year as a member of the UN Security Council and its admission in December last year to the Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric) bloc.
She said South Africa would continue to contribute towards the integration of the region and promote cooperation between regional economic communities to work towards the eventual integration of the African continent.
She said South Africa will host the second Tripartite Summit of SADC, East African Economic Community (EAC) and Common Economic Community of East and Southern Africa (Comesa), which starts on June 11. At the summit, negotiations for a free trade area agreement, covering over 700 million people, would commence, said Nkoana-Mashabane.
South Africa’s international goals were driven by the government’s desire to fulfil its own key priorities, she said. These priorities are jobs, health, education, rural development and security. “These countries (Brics) also have functional technologies that will help enhance our priorities in … education and primary health care … Where there is peace and security, there will be development – that’s what South Africa works for,” said the minister.
She said South Africa’s admission to Brics would also help it meet its domestic challenges of growing its economy and jobs back home. The country also had much to look forward to with upcoming high profile events, which include the hosting of the COP17 climate change summit in Durban, in November, and the country’s hosting of the India Brazil SA (IBSA) Summit later this year.