South Africa on Friday (June 2nd) evaded questions about an upcoming visit to its home by Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a meeting of the BRICS group marked by the context of the war in Ukraine.
Diplomats from the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) were meeting in Cape Town for a second day of talks ahead of a summit in August.
As countries gathered in this room today, we all together represent a significant majority of the world's territory, population and economy," said South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, as the BRICS seek to position themselves as an alternative to the Western-led world order. She dodged a barrage of questions about Pretoria's official invitation to President Vladimir Putin to come to South Africa at the August summit.
The invitation was made before an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Vladimir Putin was ordered. As a member of the ICC, South Africa is theoretically supposed to arrest the Russian president if he enters its soil. The two countries have close ties. Pretoria has refused to condemn Moscow since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, saying it has a neutral position and wants to favour dialogue, which worries the West in particular. "We cannot allow conflict in one part of the world to replace the ambition to eradicate global poverty, the world's greatest challenge," said Naledi Pandor.
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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent food and energy prices soaring in much of the world, exacerbating food insecurity in poor countries. Naledi Pandor lashed out at Western nations, saying the world had "failed in its cooperation" because the "attention and resources" of rich countries had been "diverted" by the conflict. "The plight of the poor is forgotten and the great powers are engaged in a global conflict," she said, adding: "We must reverse the trend." In April, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ICC arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin put South Africa "in the way". The South African government this week granted diplomatic immunity to officials attending the BRICS summit, saying it is a standard measure for holding international conferences.