EghtesadOnline: The South African government has reiterated its commitment to supporting Iran in the sanctions era despite challenges while underlining the importance of diplomacy in resolving international issues.
“Despite all the constraints, we remain committed to continue to support the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Reginah Mhaule, South Africa’s deputy minister for international relations and cooperation, said in Cape Town on Friday.
She made the statement at the start of the Ninth Deputy Ministerial Working Group Meeting between South Africa and Iran, South African government’s news agency reported.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi attended the meeting along with a number of other Iranian officials, Financial Tribune reported.
Mhaule said she firmly believes that the meeting will help give momentum to bilateral relations and expressed confidence that the two countries will be able to “weather the storm together”.
“I know this visit is being undertaken during a challenging time for your country, and we are grateful that the Islamic Republic of Iran values its relationship with South Africa. Difficult times, however, bring friends together. And I am delighted to have witnessed the increased interactions between the governments of Iran and South Africa during the last year,” she said.
Mhaule said her country regrets the US administration’s decision last year to pull out of the nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers and impose what it has described as the “toughest ever” sanctions on the country.
Under the nuclear deal, which is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear activity in return for the economic benefits of western sanctions being lifted.
“I would like to emphasize that we, as South Africa, regard the decision of the United States to withdraw as regrettable,” she said.
The South African deputy minister said her government has always believed in “diplomacy and peaceful resolution of conflicts”.
“We consider the JCPOA as a significant achievement,” she said. “It provides the necessary framework and confidence-building measures, under which your country is able to pursue its nuclear activities for peaceful purposes—a fundamental principle of the [nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
US President Donald Trump has long complained that the nuclear agreement was the “worst deal ever” and that it emboldened Iran. He has accused Tehran of stoking extremism in the Middle East and voiced concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Iranian officials have repeatedly dismissed West’s concerns and allegations over these issues.
Mhaule hailed Tehran’s continued compliance with the deal despite US departure, as verified by various reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency that polices the deal.
“We are heartened by Iran’s decision and those of the remaining parties to the JCPOA to continue to uphold the commitments of this agreement,” she said.
Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, who are signatories to the accord, have pledged to continue their support for the deal. A European special trade channel has been set up to counter the impact of US sanctions on Iran and salvage the nuclear deal that is enshrined in a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Europe hopes establishing the mechanism, known as INSTEX or the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, can be used to keep open some lines of trade between European companies and Iran.
Mhaule welcomed the opportunity to exchange views with Araqchi, saying that bilateral consultations will definitely help enhance ties in all areas.
The Iranian diplomat on Thursday held talks with Baleka Mbete, speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, in which they explored avenues for cooperating more closely in the fields of politics and economy.
Araqchi briefed her on the latest developments in efforts aimed at keeping the nuclear agreement alive, including the launch of the European trade vehicle for non-dollar trade with Iran.
Mbete said South Africa attaches great significance to its relations with the Islamic Republic and welcomes efforts to expand economic cooperation with the country.