S.Africa, France seek to mend differences on Libya, Syria

11th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa and France looked past their feud over NATO's campaign in Libya, seeking common ground on the current unrest in Syria, during a visit Friday by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

Ties between the two nations have been strained, first by France's intervention in resolving Ivory Coast's electoral drama, and then by the NATO bombing campaign in Libya.

The differences over Libya became particularly pointed, after President Jacob Zuma accused NATO's bombing campaign of overstepping its UN mandate to impose a no-fly zone, which South Africa voted for at the Security Council.

"It is known that we have not the same interpretation of the Resolution 1973," which authorised the no-fly zone, Juppe told a press conference.

"We fully agreed to support to build democracy in Libya," he added, speaking in English.

"In Syria we share the same values. We agreed to increase our pressure to stop the violence on population and sent a programme of reforms," Juppe said.

"There is no question of military intervention. We assure our partners of that," he said, adding that the situation in Syria "is completely different."

"It is another approach," he said.

South Africa, which has condemned the violence in Syria, abstained from a UN vote last month for a resolution backed by Western powers to condemn the violence, claiming a "hidden agenda" to bring down President Bashar al-Assad's government.

"Syrians should not be subjected to any form of violence. That's where we agreed with France. But we should encourage Syria on a road of peace," South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told the press conference.

"Not a single South African leader, or from ANC, has ever in private or public condoned any form of violence in Syria," she said.

"We subscribe to the Arab League taking the leadership in resolving the conflict in its own region," she added.

South Africa broadly opposes outside military intervention on the continent, rather seeking to mediate power-sharing pacts as a way to avoid armed conflict.

Nkoana-Mashabane said solutions in Syria could found similar to the roadmap that the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is trying to implement in Madagascar.

© 2011 AFP

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