Mbeki meets new ambassadors
David Masango7 May 2007
President Thabo Mbeki welcomed four new Heads of Mission accredited to South Africa last week, and committed the country to working to strengthen relations with each of them.
The president on received Letters of Credence from Roberto Cordovez Castillo of the Republic of Panama, Carlos Moreno De Caro of the Republic of Colombia, Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene of the Republic of Lithuania and Zhong Jianhua of the People's Republic of China.
Receiving credentials from the heads of mission, Mbeki emphasised South Africa's commitment to strengthen relations with the countries for their mutual benefit.
"We are working at really strengthening our relations with Latin America and we started with entering cooperation agreements with countries in the south [of Latin America]," Mbeki told Ambassador Castillo.
He explained that the project underway to widen the Panama Canal was crucial for the economy and that South Africa could benefit from participating in it.
"Its widening is crucial to the world economy. It is a challenging engineering project but is important [to undertake]," said Mbeki.
Castillo explained that seven years ago, his country decided to open its first embassy in Sub-Saharan Africa in South Africa to pay respect to the victory and triumph of democracy here.
South Africa must be part of the Panama Canal project, he said, because it had extensive know-how in public works.
"Our mission will be to create bonds that will be based on mutual respect.
"We expect to develop a whole scope of trade relations and to explore every possible business venture and investment opportunity - both ways," Castillo said.
Jianhua said he was "greatly honoured" to be appointed ambassador to South Africa ahead of the tenth anniversary of the China-South Africa diplomatic relations.
He told Mbeki that he would make every effort to further friendship and advance the strategic partnership between the two countries.
Ambassador Liauskiene cited some similarities between South Africa and Lithuania, including their commitment to the creation of their statehoods based on democracy and free market economies.
She also explained that the Lithuanians "know what the fight for freedom is about" since it had only gained independence from the Soviet Union 17 years ago.
"We believe in the same ideals, those of freedom and equal rights for everybody," said Liauskiene.
Ambassador De Caro requested that Mbeki to assist to achieve peace in Colombia, following drawn out conflicts with guerrillas.
"We all do know that you are a peacemaker. Please help us. Invite guerrilla commanders to South Africa and let them see how peace is being sustained here," he said.
The ambassador conveyed a message from the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez to visit Colombia and to open a South African Embassy there soon.
The Colombian government also requested South Africa to waive visas for its nationals who wanted to visit South Africa, like they did with many other Latin American countries.
Mbeki said the issues had been discussed by the South African government but the two countries needed to discuss the matters further to try to come up with solutions.
"We have [in the past] interacted with the leadership about a number of issues such as the peace process and drug trafficking.
"If there is anything we can do [to assist with the peace process] we are ready - let us discuss it.
"The issue of drug trafficking - we also need to deal with it together," said Mbeki.