SA to share TRC experiences with Iraq

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pretoria - South Africa has resolved to share its experiences of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with Iraq to help reconcile parties in that country.

This emerged during the South Africa/Iraq bilateral meeting between Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Hajaig and her Iraqi counterpart Labeed Abbawi at the Union Buildings on Tuesday - the first governmental visit to South of the new regime in Iraq.

"We have agreed to provide knowledge and experience to the Iraqi people to assist them in overcoming their problems and help in reconciling the parties in Iraq," said Ms Hajaig.

She said the idea of different Iraqi groups getting together, in peaceful discussions could resolve any differences through dialogue.

"We believe that the process of political discussion and dialogue is one that will ultimately benefit these groups as well as the Iraqi people and the continent."

The TRC, a court-like body assembled to help deal with apartheid atrocities, was seen by many as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa.

Anyone who felt that he or she was a victim of apartheid violence was invited to come forward and be heard. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution

Meanwhile, Ms Hajaig said the two counterparts had resolved that more needed to be done with respect to increasing political and trade relations, especially in the oil sector.

She said the parties discussed broad economic relations, and in that context, the Iraqi delegation informed them that the Iraqi oil industry had "tremendous" potential for involvement and investment.

Economic trade between South Africa and Iraq increased from over R90 million in 2004 to over R200 million during the first five months of this year - even during years of conflict there.

She said they had discussed the potential of visits between both the countries business sectors.

"There are a lot of Iraqi business people based in [neighbouring] Dubai, Jordan and Kuwait and we think that can become the starting point between the business sector and parastatals," Ms Hajaig explained.

Deputy Minister Hajaig added that she was happy with the "thorough" briefing she received from Mr Abbawi regarding the constitutional processes unfolding in Iraq.

She said the South African government had always believed Iraq was "very strategically placed" and when peace finally came it would be a major political player in the Middle East region.

For his part, Deputy Minister Abbawi said Iraq viewed South Africa - the only African country Iraq has an Embassy in - as important and that it envisaged strengthening existing political and economic relations with it.

"There is a lot of potential resources in Iraq such as oil, gas and minerals. Iraq needs oil for reconstruction and we need all kinds of help from friendly countries and South Africa can do a lot to help the Iraqi people and government," said Mr Abbawi.

"We had a vacuum of power because of the collapse of the regime and the dismissal of the army and police force but now we are in the process of rebuilding our country," he explained.