A day after calling for an end to sanctions against Iran and saying that Tehran respects human rights, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Friday that South African ministers are not visiting Israel out of solidarity with the Palestinians.

“Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently. Even the Jewish Board of Deputies that we engage with here, they know why our ministers are not going to Israel,” South Africa’s The Times quoted the minister as saying.

Nkoana-Mashabane was speaking at a meeting of South Africa’s largest trade union, which was also addressed by a group campaigning for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners, the Times reported.

“The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle,” she said.

“The last time I saw a map of Palestine, I couldn’t sleep,” Nkoana-Mashabane added, explaining that the map “is just dots, smaller than those of the homelands, and that broke my heart.” The “homelands,” also called Bantustans, were territories set aside for blacks in apartheid-era South Africa.

Iran’s nuclear quest, however, did not bother the South African foreign minister, who on Thursday praised Iran for its “respect” for human rights.

“South Africa, like all other peace-loving democratic countries that also respect human rights, like Iran, calls for lifting of unilateral sanctions which would be encouraged by these talks that the honorable minister had referred to,” she said during a press conference in Pretoria with Iran’s visiting Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“Conditions would be peaceful coexistence, acceptance that all countries, signatories in particular of the [nonproliferation treaty] have the right for peaceful usage of enriched uranium for energy needs, for health, technology usage,” she continued, according to a Voice of America report. During the visit, according to the report, the two countries – which claim close ties – reaffirmed their “peaceful, constructive and lasting relationship.”

Israeli diplomatic officials downplayed Nkoana-Mashabane’s comments about no ministerial visits to Israel, saying there has not been a ministerial visit from or to South Africa for years.

“There is nothing new here,” the official said, adding that Israeli-South African relations have been on a back burner for years, with only a small amount of trade and tourism.

Regarding her Bantustan analogy, the official said it was “unworthy of comment.”

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.


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