PRETORIA : JUNE 12, 2002

Your Excellency, Ambassador Kushakow; Cabinet colleagues; esteemed members of the Diplomatic Corps, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a great honour for me to congratulate our Russian friends on the 12th Anniversary of the Proclamation of State Sovereignty of the Russian Federation. South Africans and Russians have over many decades shared a close and long-standing friendship. It is a friendship that we are proud to foster and encourage. Our friendship is our way of thanking you and your fellow Russians for the role that they played in the liberation struggle for a democratic South Africa. Many South Africans received protection, support, education and, most importantly, encouragement and friendship from Russia during the dark days of apartheid.

Our friendship also signifies how much our countries value their newly acquired freedoms and are committed to defending them from any internal or external threat. ln fact, I believe that even though distant regions of the world are separated by vastly different social and economic contexts, the Russian Federation and South Africa share a common affinity. At about the same time both the Russian Federation and South Africa began their emancipation from oppressive regimes. The Russian Federation freed itself from the oppression of communism and embarked on its path towards freedom and democracy at about the same time when South Africa embarked on its own path towards a fully fledged democracy and away from the oppression of apartheid.

As a continuation and testimony to the seriousness of our intent to make this relationship grow and strengthen, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, will visit the Russian Federation during July 2002. The main aim of her visit will be to hold political discussions on a number of important issues with her counterpart, Dr Igor Ivanov. Minister Dlamini Zuma will also convey a personal message from President Mbeki to President Putin reaffirming his invitation to President Putin to visit South Africa.

In recent years our bilateral relations with Russia have moved beyond the point of mere diplomatic interaction and co-operation with science and technology initiatives, such as the Pebble Med Modular Reactor (PBMR) and the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) projects being particularly successful. Furthermore, the "First African in Space" project is the ultimate confirmation of what can be achieved when countries work together. It is also the ultimate confirmation of what we as South Africans can do and achieve. The benefits that will flow from this project will be felt not only by South Africans but by people from all over the Continent.

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen: As you are aware, South Africa had the honour of hosting the recent Non-Aligned Movement’s Ministerial Meeting and will also in the coming months host the inaugural African Union Summit, as well as the World summit on Sustainable Development. These events impact not only on issues affecting the African continent but also issues of global concern. In this regard, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development serves as the vehicle to attain the objectives of the people on our continent through co-operation with the rest of the world. I wish to express the gratitude of the South African Government for the support of the Russian Federation towards NEPAD.

Your Excellency, may I once again, on behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa congratulate the Government and the people of the Russian Federation on the celebration of their National Day.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Excellencies: Let us raise our glasses in a toast to the President of the Russian Federation, its Government and its people.