Briefing the media after a meeting which has been described as fruitful, International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Nomaindiya Mfeketo and her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian agreed that there is still untapped potential for the expansion of relations.
However, international sanctions imposed on Iran have made trade increasingly difficult, Deputy Minister Mfeketo said.
“Because of the impact (of sanctions), we had problems but we are on track, especially with the agreement with the P5+1. As soon as (this is) resolved, we will continue with our imports…” she said on Tuesday.
Despite pressure from some Western countries, South Africa has maintained good relations with Iran, and has repeatedly called for the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic republic.
South Africa has been of the view that continued sanctions against oil-rich Iran boil down to collective punishment.
One of the effects of these sanctions was that South Africa had to end its oil imports from Iran in June 2012. This was despite the fact that South Africa used to receive most of its oil from Iran.
Last year, the United States renewed the exemption from sanctions on Iran after that country reached a first-step agreement with the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany). Under the agreement, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for eased sanctions by the six powers.
The US and European Union have targeted Iran’s oil exports, the country’s lifeline, and its financial institutions since late 2011 in their efforts to force Iran to stop its uranium enrichment, an activity they suspect is being used to produce nuclear weapons.
The meeting between the two Deputy Ministers looked into matters of bilateral and multilateral concern, including peace and security issues, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.
They also reviewed the status of relations and renewed their commitment to increase cooperation across various fields.
With South Africa celebrating 20 years of democracy, Deputy Minister Mfeketo used the opportunity to thank Iran for supporting the people of South Africa in their struggle against apartheid.
She said South Africa considered Iran as an important friend and influential global player.
“South Africa recognises that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a pivotal and influential player in its region as well as internationally. Iran has a rich history and a vibrant culture. It has a large and growing economy.”
Deputy Minister Mfeketo said South Africa can also draw lessons from Iran in implementing the country’s five national priorities, which are education, health, the fight against crime, creating decent work, as well as rural development and land reform.
Iran has excelled in some of these fields, particularly education and health.
Bilateral trade with Iran in 2013 amounted to R211 million.
Total imports from Iran amounted to R48.6 million and total exports to Iran amounted to R162.6 million.
The two countries also have a Joint Commission, which allows them to increase cooperation.