SA not boycotting Israel

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pretoria - South Africa has no policy aimed at boycotting Israel, International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said on Tuesday.

But Pretoria did discourage people from visiting Israel because of the latter's continued occupation of Palestinian land, Ebrahim told reporters in Pretoria.

"We have no policy that says boycott Israel but we believe that Israel is an occupying power and that we should discourage people from visiting that country," he said.

Reports this week linked senior government officials to an alleged plan to boycott Israel and its products but Ibrahim on Tuesday dismissed the claims, saying South Africa remained "diplomatically" related to Israel.

"At the end of the day, it's an individual choice. We believe that people should be discouraged from visiting Israel because continued visits would send a message that what is happening to the Palestinians is being supported."

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, which includes West Bank and Gaza, is seen as the foremost obstacle to peace in the region. Since Israel captured the territories in 1967, the international community, including the UN and international legal bodies, usually refer to the region as the occupied Palestinian territories, something Palestine had continued to reject.

South Africa's foreign policy had always been guided by finding a political solution to the decades-long crisis.

"A message needs to be sent to Israel that they have to stop the occupation of Palestinian territory. We believe what the Palestinians are demanding is legitimate," said Ebrahim.

Meanwhile, South Africa says it remains deeply concerned about the escalating political violence in Syria. It called for immediate ceasefire and dialogue to end the crisis.

"The use of heavy weapons is once again increasing... South Africa conveys deep sympathy to the people of Syria during this time and we are calling for the violence to stop," Ebrahim said.

Government regretted the resignation last week of UN envoy in Syria Kofi Annan and had called for a speedy replacement.

"We agree with the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon for the need for a speedy and peaceful solution to the Syrian problem rather than a military solution."

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