Russian foreign minister attends BRICS to seek international support over Ukraine issue


CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was meeting in South Africa with counterparts from the BRICS economic bloc of developing nations for discussions Thursday that will start with “an exchange of views” on major geopolitical issues, including the war in Ukraine, South Africa’s ambassador to the bloc said.

Most of the BRICS countries differ sharply from the position of the U.S. and its Western allies on the war. Speaking ahead of the meeting, the South African ambassador, Anil Sooklal, referred to the West’s military aid to Ukraine as one of the things that “fuels the conflict.”

“Any endeavor that fuels the conflict does not solve the problem,” Sooklal said when asked for his reaction to Western “attempts” to transfer weapons to Ukraine.

“We do not know of any global conflict that has been solved though war,” he said. “All it does is cause more pain and suffering and, as BRICS countries, this is what we are saying:
Let’s focus on finding a peaceful resolution to the challenges, rather than fueling the conflict.”

The BRICS bloc is made of up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Thursday’s foreign ministers’ meeting is a harbinger of the big BRICS summit scheduled for August in Johannesburg.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been invited to attend the summer summit, but it is unclear if he will attend. The Russian head of state’s visit will put South Africa under enormous diplomatic pressure. The country has signed a treaty with the International Criminal Court, which has issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crime charges for kidnapping children from Ukraine.

South Africa has not taken a position on the enforcement of arrest warrants. Rather, critics believe the government is trying to find ways to escape its explicit obligation to arrest Putin as a signatory to the International Court of Justice Convention, saying it is seeking legal advice on its options. 

Relations between South Africa and the West will be further strained if the US allows Putin free travel to the summit after he claims South Africa is supplying Russia with weapons for the war in Ukraine Probability is high. South Africa denies the allegations.

Lavrov held official talks in at least three African countries on his way to South Africa, but his presence was clearly central to the BRICS talks held at a luxury hotel in Cape Town overlooking the South Atlantic.

South Africa’s foreign ministry said China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, was expected to send a deputy minister instead, but all other foreign ministers were present. The expansion of the BRICS bloc, and thus the potential for increased political and economic influence of Russia and China, is central to both the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the major BRICS summit in August.

Skrull said more than 20 countries had applied “formally and informally” to join the BRICS bloc, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, which had made formal applications.