SA does about face on Libya and takes a dig at the UN

South Africa continued to play hardball this week with Western powers, even as it backed down and recognised Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC).

After refusing to recognise the NTC for months and calling for a broad, inclusive governing structure, South Africa and the African Union (AU) altered their stance, claiming they had received assurances from the NTC that the council would bring all stakeholders together and protect African immigrants.

But President Jacob Zuma delivered a hard-hitting statement at the United Nations General Assembly—he accused the UN of being beholden to the interests of the West.

“We should defend the independence and impartiality of the UN and promote the principles of its charter during conflicts and crisis. The UN should never take sides in any conflict but should always maintain its impartiality. “The UN must not allow itself to be used by any country, regardless of its history or size. All citizens of the world should feel confident and secure in the knowledge that the UN is above all interests and only serves those of the global citizenry.”

Zuma called on Nato to stop its aerial bombardment of Libya and complained that the AU’s efforts in Libya were never given a chance, as “military actions were preferred over peaceful means”.

Marius Fransman, the deputy international relations and co-operation minister, said the change of heart about the NTC came about because it had committed, “not only in words but also in writing”, to reconciliation and to regional integrity.

South Africa also stood up to the US and Israel—and local lobby groups such as the Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation—and supported Palestinian statehood.

Fransman said he was not worried about how this would affect South African’s relationship with Israel because the recognition was an issue of principle.

 
Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal. Read more from Rapule Tabane

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