South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that the Russian leader, who was invited to attend next month’s BRICS summit, met in person despite the Russian leader issuing an arrest warrant.
South Africa is the current chair of BRICS, a grouping of heavyweights Brazil, Russia, India and China that also seeks to challenge the US and European-led global governance structure.
“The BRICS summit is going ahead and we are finalizing our discussions on the format,” Ramaphosa told South African reporters at the ruling ANC conference, adding that it would be a “physical” meeting.
Putin wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) — Russia illegally deported Ukrainian children.
“We will have a physical meeting of the BRICS, we are all committed,” he said in response to a question aired live by local television networks.
“We haven’t held a physical meeting for three years. It won’t be virtual,” he stressed.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa is expected to be arrested if it steps on Putin.
There was speculation in the local media that Pretoria was considering handing Putin over to China, which has not signed the Rome Convention, so as not to be forced to arrest him.
The arrest warrant is a diplomatic setback for Pretoria, which has been close to the Kremlin since the anti-apartheid years.
South Africa has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is neutral and prefers dialogue, pushing for it.
– neutral position –
Ramaphosa, who defends South Africa’s neutral stance, said Pretoria would not be deterred in its campaign to negotiate when conflicts arise.
It is an important role that we can play. “With the geopolitical situation as fluid as it is now, we believe that a country like South Africa has to play its long-term role.”
Ramaphosa said: “We learned this from the great Nelson Mandela because of his approach to international relations.
Last month, Ramaphosa led a seven-nation African peace delegation, including representatives from the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal and Uganda, in a historic attempt to broker peace between Kiev and Moscow.
The mission of the African leaders raised the voice of the continent, which has been badly affected by the conflict in Ukraine, especially due to the rise in grain prices.
He presented a 10-point proposal; Among these are stability, recognition of countries’ sovereignty, unrestricted exports of grain through the Black Sea, and the repatriation of prisoners of war and children.
South Africa is set to host the 15th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Center in the financial hub of Johannesburg from August 22 to 24.
According to South Africa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, several countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS.