SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a special pleasure to receive my colleague and friend, the Foreign Minister of South Africa Naledi Pandor. This is just a very small way to return the extraordinary hospitality that the foreign minister showed to me and our team when we visited South Africa over the summer and had what I thought was a extremely productive and positive visit. It’s also an opportunity for us to compare notes ahead of the meeting between President Ramaphosa and President Biden tomorrow, something President Biden very much looks forward to.
This partnership between our countries is more vital than it’s ever been. Together, we are tackling some of the most important challenges not only faced by our citizens but people around the world, everything from global health to climate change to the need for building resilient economies coming back from COVID. We had an extremely productive renewed strategic dialogue. I think this is an opportunity for us to look at the work that’s been done since we met because we were both very determined that we actually move forward in very practical ways and show that we’re delivering results, so we’ll take account of that.
There are a number of challenging regional issues that we’ll have an opportunity to talk about. And we’ll both be heading to the United Nations for the General Assembly and High-Level Week, and I very much look forward to continuing the conversation we started about how we see the shared future for the UN, for multilateralism, something we both attach tremendous importance to.
So Naledi, welcome. It’s great to have you and, as I said, to just in a very small way return some of the incredible generosity that you showed me and our team in South Africa. Welcome.
FOREIGN MINISTER PANDOR: Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken the team. It’s a really fantastic privilege for me to be hosted by you in your wonderful country. And we’re really thrilled that President Ramaphosa has been invited by President Biden to have bilateral discussions on issues of common interest. I’m sure that they’re going to spend time talking about the wonderful strategy that you unveiled in Pretoria concerning the plans and priorities with respect to Sub-Saharan Africa. I really believe that our leaders will help us get to some detail with respect to that strategy, and I’m looking forward to the outcome of their deliberations.
We had wonderful and very detailed discussions in South Africa, and I was able to report on a number of matters to you, one of which I’d like to just briefly refer to now, and that is the Kingdom of Lesotho. You’d recall that we were concerned that they had not finalized the necessary legislation that would create a new platform for the election of a parliament in October this year. I’m really thrilled that they finally settled the matter and the necessary legislation has been passed. And we’re looking forward to a stable, secure, democratic Kingdom of Lesotho post October’s elections. So that’s one piece of good news.
On the other matters, we haven’t moved as far as we had hoped, but this is really, I think, progress. You know that all of us are battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I have been very, very open about the value we attach to the trade and economic relationship between South Africa and the United States of America. And it’s a relationship I hope we will see grow from strength to strength. I’m especially happy that at the level of tourism, we are seeing increased numbers between both countries. I traveled on United Airlines and it was a very good experience. I can report that.
But I really am pleased that our tourist sector – tourism sector in South Africa is reporting very positive numbers and the capacity of hotels and guest houses for the summer period in South Africa. This is hopefully going to be a strong boost to our rather faltering economy. We are experiencing high inflation, as many countries are, and many other challenges that we must address.
But having said that, let me pause by saying I’m really thrilled here. Never been invited to the State Department. Never been a minister of international relations, so wonderful to be in this room and to share a few moments with you. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Wonderful to have you. Thanks everyone.