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The South African Foreign Minister did not blink when he met Blinken…


During Tony Blinken’s visit to South Africa, he and the South African Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, held a joint press conference. During the conference and in various speeches, Mr. Blinken spoke often about Russia/Ukraine in relation to international law, the United Nations Charter, human rights, freedoms, etc. At the joint press conference, Ms. Pandor said the following, among other things, in response to Blinken: “With respect to the role that multilateral bodies such as the United Nations should play, we believe that all principles that are germane to the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law must be upheld for all countries, not just some. Just as much as the people of Ukraine deserve their territory and freedom, the people of Palestine deserve their territory and freedom. And we should be equally concerned about what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine.

We’ve not seen an even-handed approach in the utilization of the prescripts of international law, and we encourage the world should have greater attention to ensuring that we are equal to everybody else. This has been a concern, and this is what at times leads to cynicism about international bodies and a lack of belief in their ability to protect the weakest and most marginalized. We have to change that belief and cynicism and ensure that all international institutions treat all human beings in a fashion that shows them – whether we are ICC, ICJ, UN Security Council, G20, EU, or whoever we are – we will protect those interests. […] Of course, we welcome the ceasefire in Palestine. However, we do express concern that many civilians have been killed, infrastructure that provides services to ordinary civilians has been destroyed, and the people of Palestine are living in buildings that are shells. And this worries us, having experienced Apartheid ourselves and living in corridors. So we do think there’s the world for the work – work for the world to do ensuring that we create peace in the territory of Palestine and have a two-state solution where you have two nations existing in peace side by side.

We also think we’re not satisfied that there’s been an independent investigation of the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, and we still call for a full, independent investigation and a full report on who actually shot her because you can’t say bullets shot a person. It’s an individual who wields the gun, and we need to get to the truth of that. This is what will show that we are truly committed to being honest and even-handed toward all people, and in particular toward media practitioners, who must be given the security to practice their craft. QUESTION: Missy Ryan from Washington Post.

First for you, Minister Pandor, the U.S. Government has been adamant, as Secretary Blinken just reinforced, that it is not asking African nations to choose between Russia and China, and the West. At the same time, the United States clearly is hoping to marshal support at the UN and elsewhere for its isolation of Russia along with American allies. You made reference in a recent article to the failure on the part of some to appreciate the principles of sovereignty and freedom of choice that African nations must consider in this regard. Do you think that the United States and its European allies sufficiently appreciate the complex interests of African nations in this arena, and did you discuss that today with Secretary Blinken?

MINISTER PANDOR: Well, let me start this time. I’m glad that Secretary Blinken has confirmed that America is not asking us to choose. I don’t recall any attempt by the United States to do that. But in terms of our interaction with some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere, there has been a sense of patronizing bullying toward “you choose this or else,” and the recent legislation passed in the United States of America by the House of Representatives we found a most unfortunate bill that we had hoped the media would say more about. Because when we believe in freedom – as I’m saying, it’s freedom for everybody – you can’t say because Africa is doing this, you will then be punished by the United States. So that’s been a disappointing passage of legislation by one house, and we hope the other house will not agree to such offensive legislation.

So indeed, it is important that all of us accept our ability to hold different opinions. We are, after all, sovereign nations that are regarded as equal in terms of the United Nations Charter. We may differ in terms of economic power and economic ability to influence development in different parts of the world, but what will make the world work is if we respect each other. This is very, very important. And one thing I definitely dislike is being told “Either you choose this or else.” When a minister speaks to me like that, which Secretary Blinken has never done but some have, I definitely will not be bullied in that way, nor would I expect any other African country worth its salt to agree to be treated.

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