South Africa sends observer mission to Palestinian elections
PRETORIA, South Africa - The South African government is sending an 11-member delegation to observe the Palestinian presidential election, Foreign Affairs officials said Tuesday.
The observer mission - which includes government and electoral officials, religious leaders and an academic - is lead by Dumisane Sithole, chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. Brigalia Bam, head of South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission, is also participating.The team departs South Africa on Wednesday for the Sunday vote and returns Jan. 12.
The South African government has sought to help Israeli and Palestinian leaders overcome their long-running conflict.
"South Africa joins the international community in welcoming Israel's commitment that it would ease its military presence in the West Bank and Gaza," the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement. "However, the South African government remains concerned over the serious escalation of violence in the occupied territories, particularly the recent Israeli incursions in Gaza."
South Africa also called on Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets and mortars at Israeli towns.
"Such acts of violence are likely to imperil the electoral process and jeopardize the prospects for peace," the statement said.