SA, Kuwait Sign Defence Treaty True to Nepad's Spirit
Pretoria - Kuwait signed a defence treaty with Pretoria yesterday on a trip that would also see the Persian Gulf country doing some window-shopping for local defence equipment.
After endorsing the agreement, defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota said Kuwait's visiting deputy Prime minister and defence minister, Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, would examine local products during his stay.
The local defence industry was already marketing its products in the Persian Gulf. A fence erected to reinforce Kuwait's border with Iraq was, for example, obtained from South Africa.
Lekota said the memorandum of understanding formalised closer military co-operation between South Africa and Kuwait in training, exercises and the exchange of expertise, and provide for co-operation in peacekeeping.
"We also include the possibility of co-operation in the exchange of technology."
Al-Sabah, who arrived in Pretoria on Sunday for a five-day visit, signed the document on behalf of his government.
Lekota said South Africa entered into the treaty in the spirit of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and in view of recent developments on the continent.
"One of these developments is the envisaged role of peace missions of the African Union (AU) ... in Africa."
The AU was launched in Durban last week, replacing the 39-year-old Organisation of African Unity. It represents, among other things, a new resolve to end war and conflict on the continent.
Al-Sabah welcomed the agreement. "This is just the beginning of a very important mission for the future."
Lekota said South Africa regarded relations with Kuwait as important because they could contribute to stability in the Persian Gulf.
"We see relations in light of our commitment to world peace and to the extent that it is possible we will support all efforts that advance peace and stability in the region."
Lekota pointed out that the Kuwaiti trip came soon after a visit by Iraq's deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.
The continuing tension between Iraq and Kuwait was likely to be discussed during Al-Sabah's stay, Lekota indicated.
South Africa felt compelled to play a role that would encourage both sides to resolve the tension by negotiations.
South Africa felt strongly that a move by Iraq to release prisoners of war would do much to promote negotiations.
"Let us release those in prison and then create an atmosphere that can allow for negotiations," Lekota said.
Officials said Al-Sabah was scheduled to hold talks with deputy president Jacob Zuma today and would meet leading figures in the defence industry later in the week.
With acknowledgements to Sapa and Business Report.