Zuma to visit France next month

2011-02-17 11:52

President Jacob Zuma will pay a two-day state visit to France in March that will see discussions on nuclear energy, French funding for South African parastatals, and the political crisis in Ivory Coast, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane said today.

The visit will take place from March 2-3 and the president will be accompanied by four ministers – herself and those for finance, energy, police and trade and industry – and a high-level business delegation, she said.

Nkoane-Mashabane said a number of agreements would be signed, including a new three-year framework for development and cooperation between France and South Africa.

Under the pact, the French development agency (AFD) will commit about a billion euro over the next three years to fund “various financial mechanisms”.

“A number of AFD funding agreements with South African state-owned enterprises are also expected to be signed,” she added without giving further detail.

Nkoane-Mashabane said nuclear energy would form part of the discussions with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government.

“France, South Africa and many others that have this capability, do believe that we should be given the opportunity to use our nuclear energy for peaceful means, including in helping in the area of energy security.”

Zuma will hold talks with Sarkozy, Prime Minister Francois Fillon and the mayor of Paris, Betrand Delanoe, and will attend the opening of the South Africa-France business forum on March 3.

“A major objective of the visit is to strengthen trade and investment ties with France and to address the challenges of a trade deficit that exists to the tune of about ­R10 billion in 2009.”

The visit will see the launch of a new forum for economic dialogue between South Africa and France and it was likely that the existing political forum would be strengthened, the minister said.

She said Zuma would give Sarkozy his views on the political unrest in Ivory Coast, a former French colony, which he is due to visit in coming days as part of an African Union delegation trying to mediate a peaceful resolution to the power struggle between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattar.

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