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BRICS summit to be ‘physical’ despite Putin warrant: South Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday (Jul 9) that next month’s BRICS summit, which Vladimir Putin has been invited to attend, will be held in-person despite an arrest warrant on the Russian leader.

South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS, a grouping of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China to challenge the dominant US and European-led global governance structures.

“The BRICS summit is going ahead and we are finalising our discussions on the format,” Ramaphosa told South African journalists on the sidelines of a conference by the ruling ANC, adding it will be a “physical” meeting.

He did not say if Putin – who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children – would attend or not.

“We are going to have a physical BRICS summit, all of us are committed to having a summit where we will be able to eyeball each other,” he said in response to a question during a briefing broadcast live on local television networks.

“We have not held a physical summit for … almost three years. It’s not going to be virtual,” he stressed.

As a member of the ICC, South Africa would be expected to arrest Putin if he sets foot in the country.

There had been speculation in the local media that Pretoria was considering moving the talks to China, which is not signatory to the Rome Statute, to avoid being put in the position of having to arrest Putin.

The arrest warrant is a diplomatic dilemma for Pretoria, which has been close to the Kremlin since the anti-apartheid struggle years.

South Africa has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it is impartial and prefers dialogue, which it is pushing for.

Neutral Position

Defending South Africa’s neutral position, Ramaphosa said Pretoria would not be deterred in its campaign to push for negotiation where conflicts arise.

“It’s an important role that we can advance,” he said. “With the geopolitical situation as fluid as it is now, we believe that it’s important that a country like South Africa should be able to play its long-stated role.”

“This we have learnt from the great Nelson Mandela because that was his approach also to international relations, he was able to talk to all parties whether they were in conflict or not,” said Ramaphosa.

Last month, Ramaphosa led a seven-country African peace delegation including representatives from the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal and Uganda, in a historic attempt to broker peace between Kyiv and Moscow.

The African leaders’ mission brought the voice of a continent that has badly suffered from repercussions of the Ukraine conflict, particularly with rising grain prices.

It put forward a 10-point proposal, including de-escalation, the recognition of countries’ sovereignty, unimpeded grain exports through the Black Sea and sending prisoners of war and children back to their countries of origin.

South Africa is set to host the 15th BRICS summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in the financial hub Johannesburg from Aug 22 to 24.

Several countries have expressed interest to join the BRICS, according to the South African foreign ministry.

Source: Channel News Asia