- BRICS foreign ministers meeting in Cape Town for two days
- The country’s ambition to compete with the West on the world stage
- Questions about Putin’s possible visit to the August summit
- South Africa is in critical condition due to an arrest warrant for Putin
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – BRICS foreign ministers on Thursday reaffirmed their bloc’s ambition to rival Western powers, but their talks in South Africa were overshadowed by questions about whether the Russian leader would be arrested if he attended a summit in August.
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said her country is examining options if Vladimir Putin, the subject of an arrest warrant for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court, attends the BRICS summit to be held in Johannesburg.
As a member of the International Criminal Court, South Africa would theoretically be required to arrest Putin, and Pandor was dogged by questions about that when it reached the first round of talks with representatives from Brazil, Russia, India and China.
“The answer is that the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) will indicate the final position of South Africa. As things stand, an invitation has been issued to all (BRICS) heads of state,” she said.
At a press conference afterwards, the ministers stood aside in a barrage of questions about Putin’s case.
The International Criminal Court in March charged Putin with the war crime of forcibly deporting children from Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. Moscow denies these allegations. South Africa invited Putin in January.
Putin did not confirm his plans, with the Kremlin saying only that Russia would be involved at the “appropriate level”.
The ministers sought to focus attention on their ambition to build influence in a multipolar world.
India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar spoke on the concentration of economic power which he said “leaves many nations at the mercy of a very few”, and on the need to reform global decision-making including the United Nations Security Council.
“Old ways cannot handle new situations. We are a symbol of change. We must act,” he said.
enlarge – widening
Once seen as a loose association of disparate emerging economies, the BRICS have taken concrete shape in recent years, spurred initially by Beijing, and since the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022, with added impetus from Moscow.
The conglomerate launched the New Development Bank in 2015, although it halted financing for projects in Russia to comply with sanctions imposed by Western countries in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Pandor said a senior bank executive had briefed ministers on “the possibility of using alternative currencies to existing internationally traded currencies”.
The goal, she said, is “to ensure that we do not become victims of sanctions that have secondary effects on countries that are not involved in the issues that led to those unilateral sanctions.”
The ministers also discussed possible plans to admit new members to the club. Pandor said more work is needed to make this possible, and she hopes a report on this will be ready by the August summit.
Chinese Vice Minister Ma Zhaoxu said that his country is happy about the prospect of more countries joining the BRICS because it will increase the influence of the bloc and give it more power to serve the interests of developing countries.
He said the BRICS bloc “was inclusive … in sharp contrast to the small circle of some countries, and so I think an enlargement of the BRICS would be beneficial for the BRICS countries.”
Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, were in Cape Town for the BRICS meeting, which continues on Friday.
Officials said the two countries, along with Venezuela, Argentina, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, are among countries that have formally applied to join BRICS or expressed interest.
Additional reporting by Karen du Plessis, Annette Meridzanian, Pargav Acharya, Nelly Bitton and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; Written by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Joe Bavier, John Stonestreet, Ross Russell and Andrew Heavens
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