- The BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting will be held in Cape Town for two days
- The government’s ambition is to compete with the West on the world stage
- Questions about Putin’s visit to the August summit
- South Africa is in a tight spot because of an arrest warrant for Putin
CAPE TOWN, June 1 (Reuters) – BRICS foreign ministers on Thursday stressed their alliance’s ambitions to rival Western powers, but their talks in South Africa were overshadowed by questions over whether Russia’s president would be arrested if he attended a summit in August.
South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Bandor said his country is considering bringing Vladimir Putin, the subject of a war crimes arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), to the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa should theoretically arrest Putin, and Bandor was bombarded with questions about that when he arrived for the first round of talks with representatives from Brazil, Russia, India and China.
“The answer is that the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) will indicate what the final position will be for South Africa. All (BRICS) heads of state have been invited,” he said.
Later at a news conference, the ministers fired a barrage of questions about the Putin affair.
In March, the ICC accused Putin of forcibly deporting children from Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. Moscow denies the allegations. South Africa invited Putin in January.
Putin did not confirm his plans, the Kremlin said only that Russia would participate “at the appropriate level.”
Ministers tried to focus on their ambition to build their influence in a multi-polar world.
India’s Subramaniam Jaishankar spoke of the concentration of economic power, which “leaves many countries at the mercy of a very few” and called for reform in global decision-making, including the United Nations Security Council.
“Old ways cannot face new situations. We are the symbol of change. We have to act,” he said.
Once seen as a loose association of disparate emerging economies, BRICS has been pushed by Beijing in recent years and has taken a more concrete form since the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022, with additional impetus from Moscow.
The group launched a new development bank in 2015, though it stopped funding projects in Russia to comply with Western sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.
Bandor said a senior executive of the bank briefed ministers on the “possible use of alternative currencies to current internationally traded currencies”.
“The aim is to ensure that we do not fall victim to sanctions that have secondary effects on countries that have had no intervention in the issues that led to unilateral sanctions,” he said.
Ministers also discussed plans to induct new members into the club. Bandor said more work is needed to make that possible and hopes to have a report on the matter ready by the August summit.
China’s Vice Minister Ma Zhaoxu said he welcomed the prospect of more countries joining the BRICS organization, which would increase the organization’s influence and empower the interests of developing countries.
The BRICS was “a stark contrast to the small circle of few countries…
Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdullahian, and his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, were both in Cape Town to attend Friday’s ongoing BRICS meeting.
Two of their countries, Venezuela, Argentina, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, have formally applied or expressed interest in joining the BRICS, officials said.
Additional reporting by Garion du Plessis, Anite Miridjanian, Bharkav Acharya, Nellie Peyton and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; By Estelle Shirban; Editing by Joe Pavier, John Stonestreet, Ross Russell and Andrew Heavens
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