SA, France pledge cooperation

South Africa and France signed several cooperation agreements during President Jacob Zuma’s state visit this week, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation said today.

Zuma and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy agreed that a forum for political dialogue be held in future on a regular basis between the foreign ministries.

A forum for economic dialogue would hold its first meeting today.

On military and defence matters, the current relationship was a “particularly comprehensive one”, including operational cooperation in training and military exercises, but the level of cooperation could be further improved.

“Cooperation in the field of safety and security is also a key component of the strategic partnership between France and South Africa,” the department said.

Also, both countries expressed a commitment to “promoting and contributing to peace, security and stability on the African continent”.

“In this regard, they express the will to further explore areas of cooperation within global and regional peace and security structures.”

The department said France was one of South Africa’s key development partners.

“Since 1994, French companies operating in South Africa have created approximately 30 000 jobs for South Africans and another 30 000 jobs have been created through French Development Agency (AFD) funded programmes and projects.

“During the same period, the French Development Agency’s commitments have exceeded €1.5 billion (R14.27 billion) and it is now the second bilateral donor in South Africa, due to an increase in loans to finance large development projects.”

The AFD would commit about a €1 billion over the next three years to support, among other things, “major public infrastructure projects”.

“During the state visit, three agreements for a total amount of €370 million have been signed.”

“Given the success of the partnership between the AFD, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris, as well as the National Empowerment Fund in training South African junior managers in France, the parties will consider extending the programme in both scope and time.”

The two countries also welcomed the development of their “bilateral economic exchanges in recent years” and said the South African-French Business Forum would continue to encourage private sector involvement in bilateral trade.

On maritime issues, the department said South Africa and France would start sharing the burden of surveillance in the Indian Ocean.

“France and South Africa are neighbouring countries in the Southern part of the Indian Ocean. In 2009, France and South Africa made a joint submission in respect of the continental shelf around the Prince Edward Islands and the Crozet Archipelago.

“Moreover, the parties are willing to share the burden of surveillance of these vast maritime areas and, to this end, are currently negotiating an agreement on cooperation in the maritime areas adjacent to the southern and Antarctic territory of Marion Island and Prince Edward Island,” said the department.

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