SA, Lebanon advance cooperation

Pretoria - South Africa and Lebanon have committed to advance each other’s common interests, while unleashing mutual economic opportunities.

This emerged after bilateral consultations between International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, in Pretoria on Friday.

“We used our discussions to identify and strengthen areas of potential cooperation between our countries, particularly with regards to increased trade, tourism and investment relations and possible joint action between South Africa and Lebanon,” Minister Nkoana-Mashabane told a media briefing after the talks.

As such, the two countries are working on finalising several agreements and Memoranda of Understanding in fields including trade and economy, air service, tourism, judicial services, and the abolishment of diplomatic visas agreement.

These, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, said would build on the already cordial diplomatic relations that are characterised by the sizeable community of South Africans of Lebanese origin.

Officials estimate that there are over 30 000 South Africans of Lebanese origin, who are active in the South African economy in many sectors like communication, farming, cement production as well as property development and construction.

“We have so many similarities, like our belief in freedom [and] promotion of peace, and that is an advantage for us to build on.

“Our diversities are also one of the landmark characteristics we share,” Minister Bassil said.

The bilateral talks also touched on peace and security matters, including the Middle East Peace Process, which both sides support.

“We both support the two-state solution. We support the inalienable right of Palestinians to a sovereign homeland, and are strongly opposed to the continued settlement expansion being pursued by the government of Israel,” Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Minister Bassil called for tolerance, saying “it is what the world needs in the face of terrorism”. –