International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on Tuesday condemned "in the strongest terms possible" the latest violence in Gaza which she labelled as “violent aggression”.
The Minister said the use of lethal force by the Israeli Defence Force against Palestinian men, women and children on the Gaza Strip was "unacceptable."
The South African government on Monday announced its recall for its ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect following Israel's deadly attack in the Gaza strip.
Briefing the media ahead of her Budget Vote, Minister Sisulu said they had to “think carefully (about) the action (they) are taking in Israel” and as such, they consulted President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians who were protesting against the provocative inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem. This latest attack has resulted in many as 58 people reported to have been shot dead, including six children, and more than 2 700 have been injured after being fired on with live ammunition by Israeli snipers.
On learning about the attack, Minister Sisulu called her US counterpart Mike Pompeo.
“My request to him was to ask if there is a possibility, can they consider putting the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem on hold. His response to me was he was unable to because it was a decision that has been fixed by the US government. So what we are seeing now was the possible reparations that the US government has taken.”
The Minister reiterated that South Africa’s view is that the Israeli Defence Force must withdraw from the Gaza Strip and bring to an end the violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories.
"We were informed that the people of Palestine were preparing for more marches today. We hope that we can persuade the Israeli Defence Force to be a little more cautious.
“It is possible for them to protect themselves if they wish with any other means but deadly means, which they used yesterday. It is unacceptable and we join the rest of the world in condemning this."
The Minister was of the view that the violence in the Gaza Strip will stand in the way of rebuilding Palestinian institutions and infrastructure.
The routine actions of the Israeli armed forces present yet another obstacle to a permanent resolution to the conflict, which must come in the form of two states, Palestine and Israel, existing side-by-side and in peace.
SA embassy in Tel Aviv
With regards to the downgrading of the SA embassy in Tel Aviv as per ANC resolution, the Minister said they have not yet worked out modalities of downgrading it.
The decision taken at the ANC’s National Conference in December was for Dirco to downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel to a liaison office.
This was a way of practical expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine, especially after US policy change which recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
“They [ANC] instructed us to downgrade the embassy. We were still mulling over this when this transpired. We are working on this and once we have come to some sort of finality we will inform you,” the Minister said.
SA urges US to reconsider Iran nuclear deal
Meanwhile, Minister Sisulu has urged the US government to reconsider the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
“We wish to urge the US to reconsider its position and seek to implement the Iran Nuclear Deal.”
The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- China, the United States, Britain, France and Russia -- Germany and the European Union in 2015.
It froze the Iranian nuclear programme in exchange for a gradual normalisation of economic and political relations with the international community and the end of sanctions.
The agreement was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in resolution 2231, which establishes a binding legal framework to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Minister Sisulu said the US decision shows re-emergence of 'rabid unilateralism' and is 'self-seeking' as it is taking the world backwards and into the brink of conflict and tensions.
She added that the JCPOA represents a major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation and diplomacy, and has contributed to regional and international peace and security. – SAnews.gov.za