Ramaphosa rules out virtual BRICS summit amid headaches of Vladimir Putin's arrest warrant

Ramaphosa rules out virtual BRICS summit amid headaches of Vladimir Putin’s arrest warrant

  • South Africa will host the BRICS bloc summit in August as planned.
  • The government has been pressured into deciding whether to host the event because it has a duty as a signatory to the International Criminal Court to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he attends the talks.
  • China was willing to host the summit if all other BRICS members agreed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday that next month’s BRICS summit, which Vladimir Putin has been invited to attend, will be held in person despite an arrest warrant against the Russian leader.

“The BRICS summit is moving forward and we are finalizing our discussions on the format,” Ramaphosa told reporters on the sidelines of a conference of the ruling African National Congress, adding that it would be a “real” meeting.

He did not say whether Putin – who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges that Russia illegally deported Ukrainian children – would attend.

Ramaphosa said in response to a question:

We will hold a physical BRICS summit, we are all committed to holding a summit where we will be able to consult each other.

He added, “We haven’t had a physical summit for nearly three years. It won’t be a virtual summit.”

As a member of the International Criminal Court, South Africa is expected to arrest Putin if he ever sets foot in the country.

There were rumors in the local media that Pretoria was considering moving the talks to China to avoid being put in the position of having to arrest Putin.

The arrest warrant is a diplomatic dilemma for Pretoria, which has been close to the Kremlin since years of anti-apartheid struggles.

Read | The SA has been pressed to decide how to deal with Putin’s impending visit

South Africa did not condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it was fair and favored dialogue.

Last month, Ramaphosa led the presidents of the Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Senegal and Uganda in a historic bid to broker peace between Kiev and Moscow.

The mission of African leaders has brought the voice of a continent that has suffered badly from the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine, particularly with soaring grain prices.

He put forward a 10-point proposal, including de-escalation, recognition of countries’ sovereignty, unhindered grain exports across the Black Sea, and the return of prisoners of war and children to their countries of origin.

South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS grouping, a group of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China to challenge the dominant global governance structures led by the United States and Europe.

The 15th BRICS Summit will be hosted at the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, the financial hub, from August 22-24.

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