South Africa contemplates withdrawing from hosting BRICS summit

StarAvis Desk
StarAvis Desk
6 Min Read
Naledi Pandor, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, and Sergey Lavrov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, hold a press conference at the BRICS foreign ministers' meeting in Cape Town, South Africa on June 1. RODGER BOSCH/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Potential arrest of Putin at BRICS summit puts pressure on Pretoria to hand him over for trial on war crimes

In an effort to evade international pressure regarding the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Africa is contemplating relinquishing its role as the host of this year’s Brics summit. Putin is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes.

Amidst heightened diplomatic activities surrounding the Ukraine crisis, South Africa, along with five other African nations, is seeking support for a new peace plan. President Cyril Ramaphosa has briefed Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the upcoming visit of African leaders to Russia and Ukraine, aiming to bring an end to hostilities. However, the impact of the African mission remains uncertain, given China’s ongoing peace efforts.

Ramaphosa has enlisted Zambia, Senegal, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Egypt to join his peace delegation.

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As a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that underpins the International Criminal Court, Pretoria would be obligated to arrest Putin and extradite him to The Hague for trial. However, China and India, if they were to host the summit, would not face the same legal obligation. Consequently, some South African officials have suggested handing over the summit to Beijing. Brazil, the fifth member of Brics, also confronts the same dilemma as South Africa since it is a party to the court.

Ukraine aims to leverage the multitude of peace plans emerging from the global south by organizing a peace conference, potentially in Denmark, in July. During the conference, Ukraine plans to present its terms for a settlement to the conflict, banking on its counteroffensive to alter the dynamics of the war. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy is expected to engage with Polish President Andrzej Duda regarding Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership at a summit in Vilnius in July. The dinner attended by Duda, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and French President Emmanuel Macron will likely focus on postwar security guarantees for Ukraine and the specifics of a route map towards NATO membership.

In an unprecedented speech in Bratislava, Macron extended an olive branch to Eastern European countries he had previously criticized, including Poland. He proposed security guarantees for Ukraine that parallel those provided by the United States to Israel, emphasizing the need for strong and tangible measures. However, Scholz took a different stance, suggesting that the focus should not be solely on NATO membership but also on security guarantees in the postwar scenario.

The nature of the offer to Ukraine is complex, as it may depend on the evolving situation of the ongoing counteroffensive. Since NATO cannot extend an invitation to Ukraine while it is at war with Russia, commitments to engage in a full-scale war with Moscow would be required. The fear remains that a weak signal sent to Ukraine during the Vilnius summit could embolden Putin and lead him to believe that Western support is wavering, potentially resulting in a victory for Russia or a protracted frozen conflict. Poland advocates for guarantees before membership, encompassing ammunition production within Ukraine, sustained arms supplies, and interoperability of weaponry between Ukraine and NATO.

Pressure is mounting for US President Joe Biden to address this issue at the Vilnius summit instead of waiting for next year’s NATO summit in Washington, which falls in the midst of an election campaign centered around whether the US should extend its defense commitments to Europe.

Critical dilemma of South Africa

The news highlights the presence of Naledi Pandor, the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a press conference during the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, on June 1.

The presence of these high-ranking officials from South Africa and Russia underscores the significance of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) forum as a platform for dialogue and cooperation among these major emerging economies. The BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting serves as a crucial opportunity for these nations to discuss various diplomatic, economic, and geopolitical matters.

The press conference suggests that important discussions took place between Naledi Pandor and Sergey Lavrov, possibly covering a range of bilateral and multilateral issues. This meeting could have addressed topics such as trade, investment, regional security, global governance, and other shared concerns among BRICS countries.

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The location of the press conference in Cape Town, South Africa, signifies the host country’s role in facilitating the meeting and its commitment to promoting BRICS cooperation. South Africa, as a member of the BRICS bloc, actively participates in shaping the forum’s agenda and collaborating with other member nations.

The news article highlights the significance of BRICS as a platform for global engagement and underscores the diplomatic efforts undertaken by South Africa and Russia to strengthen their ties within the framework of BRICS. The presence of high-level officials from both countries suggests the importance they place on the BRICS forum in fostering mutual understanding and advancing their respective national interests in the global arena.


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