The 1st meeting of the continental free trade area negotiating forum (CFTA-NF)

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INVITATION TO REPRESENTATIVES OF THE MEDIA

When: Monday 22 to Saturday 27 February 2016

Where: Medium Conference Hall – AU Headquarters, Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia

Who: Organised by the Department of Trade and Industry

Format: The meeting will be preceded by a two-day capacity building and information sharing workshop (22-23 February 2016) where the AUC will introduce a capacity needs assessment and share findings and conclusions from a select number of studies that have been conducted on the establishment of the CFTA.

Objective: The main objective of 1st Meeting of the Continental Free Trade Area Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) is to consider all the post launch preparatory issues and essential process issues and technical documents that will enable the efficient conduct of the negotiations. Specifically, the Meeting will undertake the following:

i. Discuss studies that have been conducted on the establishment of the CFTA;

ii. Identify capacity needs for the CFTA negotiations;

iii. Consider and adopt the Rules of Procedure for the CFTA Negotiating Forum;

iv. Consider technical issues to advance the preparations for the negotiations;

v. Consider the establishment of various Technical Working Groups in specific areas;

Participants: The meeting shall be attended by all the Member States of the African Union. The meeting will also be attended by Trade Officials from the following RECs and institutions; AMU (Arab Maghreb Union), CEN-SAD, COMESA, EAC, ECCAS, ECOWAS, IGAD, SADC, UNECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) and the AfDB (African Development Bank).

Background:

The 25th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2015 launched the negotiations for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). The launch of the negotiations marked a major milestone in the implementation of the Summit decision to establish a continental free trade area by 2017. The objective of the CFTA negotiations is to conclude a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the Member States of the African Union. In launching the CFTA negotiations, the Summit adopted the following documents; The objectives and principles of Negotiating the CFTA; The indicative Roadmap for the Negotiation and establishment of the CFTA; The Terms of Reference for the CFTA Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF); The institutional arrangements for the CFTA negotiations; and The Declaration on the Launch of the negotiations for the establishment of the CFTA. The Roadmap identifies phases in the negotiations for the CFTA, the post launch preparatory phase, the negotiations phase, finalisation of the CFTA Agreement and launch of the Continental Free Trade Area and the domestication of the CFTA agreement by Member States.

The CFTA Negotiating Forum was established by the Assembly and is composed of Officials from the African Union Member States and Regional Economic Communities that are recognised by the African Union. It has the responsibility of conducting trade negotiations at the technical level and it reports to the Committee of Senior Trade Officials on its negotiation activities. The CFTA Negotiating Forum also has the responsibility of preparing quarterly reports on progress made in the negotiations highlighting areas requiring higher level intervention to the Committee of Senior Officials, Ministers of Trade, the High Level African Trade Committee and the Assembly.

The Continental Free Trade Area is an Agenda 2063 flagship project of the African Union.

Journalists are invited to cover the official opening and closing ceremonies of the Capacity Building Session on 22 February 2016 and the opening and closing ceremonies of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Negotiating Forum, on 24 and 27 February 2016.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of African Union Commission (AUC).

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Exercise of the Right to Freedom of Expression in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Press Statement

John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs

Washington, DC

February 18, 2016

The United States is troubled by the harassment and detention of peaceful activists and opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including those detained in connection with this week’s general strike.

These detentions stifle the free expression of diverse political viewpoints, contributing to a closing of political space while undermining the credibility of the Government of the DRC during the electoral period.

We have raised our concerns with DRC authorities, and we call on the government to respect the freedoms enshrined in its own Constitution, which was promulgated 10 years ago today. We also call on the DRC to honor its international human rights obligations and immediately release all those being detained or, short of that, accord them the protections and fair trial guarantees to which they are entitled.

Criminalizing dissent and demonstration violates the DRC’s Constitution and threatens the legacy President Kabila has endeavored to build.

We further underscore the need for all political stakeholders to exercise their rights peacefully and encourage leaders to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric that incites violence.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Readout from the High-Level Meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Partners Group in Nairobi, Kenya

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Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

February 18, 2016

On February 18, 2016, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan participated in a meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Partners Group (consisting of IGAD countries, AU-5, AU Commission, China, UN, Troika, EU, IGAD Partners Forum representatives, and the United States) in Nairobi, Kenya. The partners reaffirmed their enduring support for the people of South Sudan and the implementation of the peace agreement. The group commended President Festus G. Mogae for his leadership as JMEC chairperson.

This high-level meeting reiterated the JMEC Partners Group’s concern over delays in the formation of the transitional government of national unity and called for additional progress towards the agreed security arrangements in Juba. In addition, the meeting underscored the need for increased commitment to a permanent ceasefire and to an enabling environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection.

The JMEC Partners Group reaffirmed their pledge to build on the substantive advances made thus far and released a joint statement outlining their support to the peace process.

For the full JMEC Partners Group joint statement, please visit: www.state.gov/p/af/rls/prsrl/2016/252612.htm. For more information on the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, please follow: www.state.gov/s/sudan/index.htm

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Readout from the High-Level Meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Partners Group in Nairobi, Kenya

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Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

February 18, 2016

On February 18, 2016, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan participated in a meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Partners Group (consisting of IGAD countries, AU-5, AU Commission, China, UN, Troika, EU, IGAD Partners Forum representatives, and the United States) in Nairobi, Kenya. The partners reaffirmed their enduring support for the people of South Sudan and the implementation of the peace agreement. The group commended President Festus G. Mogae for his leadership as JMEC chairperson.

This high-level meeting reiterated the JMEC Partners Group’s concern over delays in the formation of the transitional government of national unity and called for additional progress towards the agreed security arrangements in Juba. In addition, the meeting underscored the need for increased commitment to a permanent ceasefire and to an enabling environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection.

The JMEC Partners Group reaffirmed their pledge to build on the substantive advances made thus far and released a joint statement outlining their support to the peace process.

For the full JMEC Partners Group joint statement, please visit: www.state.gov/p/af/rls/prsrl/2016/252612.htm. For more information on the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, please follow: www.state.gov/s/sudan/index.htm

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Source:: Readout from the High-Level Meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Partners Group in Nairobi, Kenya

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Remarks With Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar

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Remarks

John Kerry
Secretary of State

Treaty Room

Washington, DC

February 18, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. It’s my genuine pleasure to welcome my friend Salaheddine Mezouar, the foreign minister of Morocco, here. He and I have met at any number of international conferences, but most importantly, I had the wonderful pleasure of being a couple of times his guest and His Majesty’s guest in Morocco, and I’m very grateful for the extraordinary, very generous welcome.

Morocco – many people in the United States aren’t aware of this – is the first country in the world to recognize the United States after our Declaration of Independence. And we have had a very long and important and good relationship with Morocco. Morocco is a non-NATO ally, but a very important ally in any number of initiatives right now, deeply engaged in leading efforts to bring about peace in Libya. And we are very, very grateful for the meetings that have taken place in Morocco under the stewardship of the foreign minister and His Majesty in an effort to try to see a government emerge in Libya and be able to return to Tripoli and begin to unite that country.

In addition to that, they are a partner in efforts to counter terrorism and also to build stability in the region as a whole. Today we will have a great deal to talk about. In addition to some of the challenges ultimately of the Western Sahara and of our shared commitment on climate change, it’s important for me to recognize that Morocco will be the host of the next meeting – the first meeting after Paris – of all of the countries that came together to reach agreement on an historic agreement to move forward on climate change. So we look forward to their important work in that regard.

So I thank you for taking time to come and visit, Salaheddine, and I look forward to our conversation. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MEZOUAR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, John. I’m very happy to meet you in Washington. Of course, we meet each other during various meetings. However, I would like to underscore how happy I am to meet with you here and to have this opportunity to have this exchange with you with all of these issues that are in the news that have interested us, but of course, to talk about our bilateral relations, which, as you said, are excellent relations.

Our two countries are two friendly countries, sincerely friendly, because we share the same values. We share the same ambitions for peace, stability, prosperity, democracy – those values, those human values, and the values of equality. These are fundamental values for Morocco, and we are delighted to be able to work with you for their growth and their development also within our region.

Our relations, of course, are progressing in a structured framework. We have the Strategic Dialogue which exists between our two countries, and this is a model in terms of its form and its workings and also and its ambitions. The meetings between our two heads of state two years ago now was a momentum towards a new dynamic in our relationship. We made commitments on either side, and that demonstrates the seriousness of our relationship and that also demonstrates the value that we attach to this relationship.

Of course, there are things that are happening throughout the world and in our region and exchange political dialogue, exchanges of views, but also perfect cooperation which exists between us in terms of security, in terms of fight against terrorism, in terms of eradication of that which represents the fundamentals of terrorism. These are all things that we share and for which we are working together.

There’s also another component, and in this I would like to congratulate you, John, and congratulate your country for all the work that you have accomplished during COP21 in Paris, because without your commitment, it would have been difficult to conclude the Paris Accord. I would like to underscore that today, because this is a recognition of all the efforts that you have carried out during delicate moments in order to achieve an agreement. And I do believe that without you, it would have been quite difficult to achieve the framework that was the Paris framework.

Of course, we are counting on you for the success of COP22 in Marrakesh, which is scheduled for November 7 to 18. Of course, we are facing a challenge, namely that of signing and ratifying, but also the challenge to move from the agreements to the implementation. The world is awaiting the implementation of concrete projects. The world is awaiting to see that we are not talking about a pious wish; no, what we’re wanting to see is an implementation. And with you and thanks to you and thanks to your support, we will ensure that COP22 will be a COP that will begin the implementation.

I would like to thank you for your availability. I would like to thank you also for your friendship. I would like to thank you also for your personal commitment on all of these issues that pertain the world and all of these issues that affect our region. Yes, we are facing real challenge. We’ll meet them together because we have this ambition that the world can only advance under the framework, of course, of peace, stability, and prosperity.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER MEZOUAR: Thank you.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Source:: Remarks With Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar

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The IMF’s Regional Technical Assistance Center South Supports Strengthening Coordinated Border Management

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On February 15–19, 2016, AFRITAC South held a seminar at the Africa Training Institute in Mauritius on improving compliance of indirect taxes and coordinated border management (CBM).

The event brought together senior customs officials from revenue administrations from Angola, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. International experts shared with participants their knowledge and country experience of implementing CBM. Guest speakers included the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Mauritius Revenue Authority, and the Mauritius Ministry of Agro-industry and Food Security.

Mr. Lal, Commissioner General of the Mauritius Revenue Authority, noted that “CBM brings a host of benefits to the government, to individual border agencies as well as to stakeholders at the borders”.

CBM is a global customs initiative to improve the flow of trade across borders and is strongly supported by the World Customs Organization. It is a key program for maximizing revenues, improving trade facilitation, and ensuring the security and safety of citizens. There are many challenges to governments worldwide in progressing this objective especially in mainland Africa where the borders are large, numerous, often porous, and difficult to monitor at all times.

Participants shared their experiences and exchanged knowledge in the compliance of indirect taxation, in particular in relation to customs working with other Border Control Agencies in the inspection of cargo, documents and collection of various taxes, duties, fees and service charges.

Through effective peer learning, the seminar promoted the importance of CBM in the region, complemented ongoing regional integration programs, and each country developed a draft national strategy and action plan.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Source:: The IMF’s Regional Technical Assistance Center South Supports Strengthening Coordinated Border Management

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Statement of the High-Level Meeting of the JMEC Partners Group on South Sudan

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Joint Statement

Nairobi, Kenya

February 18, 2016

The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Partners Group—including representatives of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, China, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, the African Union Commission, the European Union, the IGAD Partners Forum and the United Nations have met to discuss implementation of all aspects of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS). In this regard, we commend President Festus G. Mogae on the work he has done as JMEC Chairperson and on the JMEC report delivered to the AU Peace and Security Council on January 29. We also look forward to his report to the UN Security Council tomorrow.

We welcome the Government of South Sudan’s February 11 appointment of the First Vice President, but remain concerned by delays in formation of the transitional government in South Sudan. Together with the IGAD Council of Ministers and African Union Peace and Security Council we call for the Agreement’s signatories, once sufficiently represented in Juba, to form a transitional government without further delay. In this regard, it is essential that all parties to the agreement participate in formation of the government; proceeding unilaterally would undermine the letter and spirit of the peace agreement. Issues such as the number of new states and the designation of state boundaries are best resolved within an inclusive process under the transitional government.

Forming the transitional government requires progress on agreed security arrangements for Juba, the cantonment of SPLA troops at least 25km outside Juba, and the return of SPLM-IO security forces. We urge that these commitments be carried out expeditiously.

We are deeply troubled by ongoing reports of ceasefire violations, such as those detailed in the January 2016 JMEC report, as well as the catastrophic humanitarian situation. All parties must honor their commitment to a permanent ceasefire and to granting unfettered access for CTSAMM monitors and humanitarian assistance.

We fully support President Mogae’s work, his mandate, the integrity of JMEC, and the decisions taken so far in furtherance of the peace agreement. We also note that the ultimate responsibility for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan rests with its leaders. South Sudan faces an economic crisis of incredible proportion; it can only be addressed by a functioning transitional government. It is time for the country’s leaders to work together and give the people of South Sudan what they want and deserve—peace.

The JMEC Partners Group will remain in close contact with our representatives in Juba, and will together remain vigilant in supporting JMEC and the South Sudanese parties to ensure all elements of the agreement are implemented in good faith. The group will convene again in April in Addis Ababa to further support South Sudan and ARCSS implementation, and may also convene on an ad hoc basis as necessary.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Source:: Statement of the High-Level Meeting of the JMEC Partners Group on South Sudan

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Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on South Sudan

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The Secretary-General condemns the violence that broke out overnight and continued today, 18 February, in the UNMISS Protection of Civilians site in Malakal, in South Sudan, claiming the lives of at least seven internally displaced persons and injuring approximately 40 others so far.

The Secretary-General notes with concern the rising inter-communal tensions between the Dinka and Shilluk which precipitated this incident. He warns all parties against stoking ethnic disputes and calls on them to refrain from any actions or statements that could further escalate the situation.

The Secretary-General also reminds all concerned, including Government security forces, of the inviolability of the United Nations compounds. He underscores in no uncertain terms that any attack directed against civilians, UN premises and peacekeepers may constitute a war crime.

The Secretary-General urges the leaders of South Sudan to implement without delay the peace agreement reached six months ago, so that the people of South Sudan can begin a process of reconciliation and healing.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Source:: Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on South Sudan

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Joint Statement on Libya by the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States

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The governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States welcome the Libyan Presidency Council’s February 14 announcement of a Government of National Accord Cabinet. We take note of the spirit of openness and reconciliation embodied in this Cabinet. It is not easy to choose the path of reconciliation, but addressing Libya’s humanitarian, economic, and security crises requires great courage.

Finalizing the Government of National Accord is an essential step toward providing the Libyan people the opportunity to rebuild their country and counter the threat posed by Da’esh to their common future. We stand ready to provide full support to the Libyan people and the Government of National Accord as they continue the hard work of restoring unity and stability.

Members of the House of Representatives now face a solemn responsibility. We urge the HoR to endorse the list of Government of National Accord Cabinet members in its entirety as foreseen in the Libyan Political Agreement. ‎The path of reconciliation and the formation of the full GNA offer a positive way forward for the Libyan people. We will stand with those who choose this path forward. ‎By contrast, continued division will benefit only Da’esh and the other extremist groups that want to tear Libya apart.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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Source:: Joint Statement on Libya by the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States

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FC – Tunisian President Béji Caid Essebsi on state visit to Switzerland

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The Federal Council, led by President Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, today received the Tunisian president, Béji Caid Essebsi, on a state visit. Relations between Switzerland and Tunesia have grown closer since Tunisia began its transition to democracy and the rule of law following the revolution of 2011, a process that has since been recognised with the award of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Switzerland.

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Source:: FC – Tunisian President Béji Caid Essebsi on state visit to Switzerland

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The Gambia National Day

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Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State

Washington, DC

February 18, 2016

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send best wishes to the people of The Gambia on the 51st anniversary of your independence on February 18.

I look forward to working together in the coming year to strengthen democracy, promote human dignity, and combat terrorism and extremism.

I wish all Gambians a joyful anniversary celebration

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Source:: The Gambia National Day

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EU-Tunisia: need for an inclusive partnership to foster democracy

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Economic instability, the situation in Libya, and terrorist attacks are threatening Tunisia’s fragile democracy, which should benefit from a reinforced cooperation with EU, said Members of both the Tunisian and European parliaments at the constituent meeting of the EU-Tunisia Joint Parliamentary Assembly held on Thursday 18 February.

MEPs and their counterparts from the Tunisian Assembly welcomed the recent democratic transition in Tunisia but underlined its fragility. Tunisia’s economic instability, public debt and high youth unemployment rate are creating difficult conditions in which to implement needed reforms, they said. Threats in its neighbourhood and notably the worrying situation in Libya, as well as terrorist attacks particularly affecting the tourism sector are also major challenges, they added.

To respond to these pressures and accelerate Tunisia’s economic development, the EU-Tunisia free trade agreement, to be discussed next week in the European Parliament’s plenary session, was seen by Members of the both the Tunisian and European parliaments as a positive sign. But “cooperation between EU and Tunisia should be further reinforced” said Tunisian Members, who highlighted the need for an inclusive partnership, including budget support and more.

The constituent meeting was opened by Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT) and Mohamed Fadhel Ben Omrane, co-chairs of the EU-Tunisia Joint Parliamentary Assembly. Participants included European neighbourhood policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, several members of the Tunisian government, representatives of Tunisian civil society and members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, winners of the Nobel Prize 2015.

Background

The European Parliament will vote in plenary next week on an emergency plan to import 70,000 tonnes of Tunisian olive oil duty free, recently backed by the International Trade committee, to help boost the struggling Tunisian economy, hit not least by terrorist attacks of 2015. Furthermore, they will discuss and vote on recommendations for further talks on an EU-Tunisia free trade agreement.

In October 2015, the EU and Tunisia started negotiations for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, encompassing not only trade in goods but also services and a range of regulatory areas.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of European Parliament.

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Source:: EU-Tunisia: need for an inclusive partnership to foster democracy

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