Iran–South Africa relations
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Iran–South Africa relations refers to the historical and current bilateral relationship of the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa. Both economically and politically, relations between the two countries are quite warm and have continued to expand.
South Africa and Iran share historical bilateral relations and the latter supported the South African liberation movements. It severed official relations with South Africa in 1979 and imposed a trade boycott in protest against the country’s apartheid policies. However, in January 1994, Iran lifted all trade and economic sanctions against South Africa and diplomatic relations were reestablished on 10 May 1994.
South Africa and Iran share good trade relations, with South African exports increasing by 7 percent from $1.4 billion in 2006 to $1.5 billion in 2007, and imports from Iran, mostly crude oil, increasing by 13.5 percent from $18.3 billion in 2006 to $20.8 billion in 2007. Iran was the largest supplier of crude oil to South Africa in 2007.
Several South African companies are involved in major projects in Iran. MTN Group has a 49-percent stake in the Irancell consortium which was awarded the second mobile telecommunications license in Iran. It started operations in October 2006.
Sasol is participating in a $900-million polymer joint venture with the Iranian state-owned petrochemicals company, Pars Petrochemicals Company, which produces ethylene as well as high and low density polyethylene. The joint venture is known as the Arya Sasol Polymer Company. Iran and South Africa have equally invested 1.35 billion euros in the project. Arya Sasol Petrochemical Complex is among the world’s biggest polymer projects. When the complex comes on stream, 400,000 tons of ethylene, 90,000 tons of C3 cut, 300,000 tons of medium and heavy polyethylene, and 300,000 tons of light polyethylene will be added to Iran’s petrochemical output. Construction operations of the complex started in Pars Special Economic Energy Zone in 2002 and the project has made over 97-percent progress by May 2009.
Relations under the Shah
Ties between the Iranian government under the Pahlavi dynasty and the apartheid regime were close. After Reza Shah abdicated in 1941, he exiled himself to South Africa where he died in 1944. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi visited the country during the 70s where he was received by B J Vorster. The government supplied South Africa with oil and continued to do so until the overthrow of the government in 1979.
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