BRICS explores closer ties with Allies amidst expansion drive

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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) Officials from more than a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, discussed building closer ties with the BRICS bloc of major emerging economies on Friday. It positions itself as a counterforce against the West.

BRICS countries, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, are currently considering expanding their membership, and more and more countries have expressed interest in joining.

Once thought of as a loose coalition of various emerging powers, the BRICS nations, initially led by China and further spurred by Russia after the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022, have grown in recent years. It has taken a more concrete form.

In his opening remarks at Friday’s debate, host South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said the EU was an advocate for developing countries, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic, wealthy nations and the world were forced to step up. She said the agency let her down.

“Collaboration in the world has stagnated,” she said. “Developed countries have never fulfilled their obligations to developing countries and are trying to shift all the blame to the global South,” Mr. Pandor said.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Comoros, Gabon and Kazakhstan have all sent representatives to Cape Town for so-called “friends of the BRICS” talks, according to official plans. 

Egypt, Argentina, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau and Indonesia participated virtually.

Other countries echoed Mr. Pandor’s accusations of wealthy nations. The DRC foreign minister said developed countries lack the political will to promote collective peace and prosperity. “We urge the BRICS countries to make changes and build a new international order,” Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs Christophe Rutundura Apala said in a statement.

Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it wanted to join the bloc and hoped that the mechanism for new membership would be decided “as soon as possible”.

China said last year it was asking unions to begin the process of accepting new members. Other Member States have also indicated which countries wish to participate. But officials said on Thursday they appeared to recognize the need to be cautious and have more work to do. India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Thursday’s meeting included deliberations on guiding principles, criteria, criteria and procedures for expanding the BRICS alliance.

“It’s still a work in progress,” he said.

South Africa’s Pandor said foreign ministers hope to finalize work on a framework to welcome new members before the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in August.

Preparations for the summit are proceeding under a cloud of controversy due to the possible participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose arrest warrant has been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

As an ICC member, South Africa will come under pressure to arrest Putin if he goes to the summit. Pretoria said it was still considering legal options to accommodate him.