/ 7 August 2023

Brics is not pro-Russian or anti-West, says Pandor

Naledi Pandor (1)
South Africa’s International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.. (Rodger Bosch/AFP)

Brics does not espouse an anti-West agenda and the invitation to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to attend its upcoming summit should not be seen as an indication otherwise, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said on Monday.

“I don’t think we see Brics as being pro-Russia or anti-Western, I think that would be extremely wrong,” Pandor told a media briefing on South Africa’s preparedness for the summit it is hosting later this month.

“As I have said many times before, South Africa’s trading partners in the West are very,.very important to South Africa’s economic progress. So, I don’t think we would join or be part of any organisation that is anti this and pro that. We have a set of principles and values that I have articulated, which join us together, and we pursue those.

“None of them are intended to make enemies of anyone. We believe in a world that collaborates and works together to the greater good.”

She said these principles would guide South Africa’s stance on plans to expand the membership of the five-nation bloc.

“So, I certainly would guard against any set of criteria for expansion that lead us down a path where we contribute to increasing conflict in the global community — or in any part of the world.”

She confirmed that Raisi had been invited and said she believed there was a strong possibility that he would attend the Brics Outreach and Brics Plus meetings, taking place on the sidelines of the summit.

“But this is not by any means an intention to build some form of bloc that is anti-Western.”

Pandor said Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would attend the summit, and reiterated that Russian President Vladimir Putin would participate virtually.

Putin was persuaded not to come to Johannesburg, given the obligation South Africa would have faced to act on an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Reports that Modi did not want to attend, and had to be persuaded by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the course of a phone call, were simply not true, Pandor said.

“Everybody was astounded at this rumour,” she added.

“The prime minister of India has never said he is not attending the summit.”

The phone call had been planned for some time, as part of Ramaphosa’s regular interaction with fellow Brics leaders, she said, adding that he had also been briefing them on the African peace initiative on the Ukraine.

“We did have the phone call on our agenda. It had nothing to do with this purported rumour of non-attendance.”

Pandor said the foreign ministers of the five member states have compiled a report with principles that should guide any expansion of the bloc and would submit it during the course of the summit, which is taking place in Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August.

“We will also provide them with an indication of the countries that have formally expressed interest, either by writing or other direct contact. 

“We will provide them with those country names and they must then consider the document, have their debate — we have had our very rich debate as foreign ministers and officials — and they must then make whatever conclusions. The final decision will be theirs.”

Asked about reports that India and Brazil opposed expansion, Pandor added that among foreign ministers there were points of accord and of disagreement on the subject.

“I don’t think it is right to single out Brazil or India. All of us have agreed that we accept expansion, as foreign ministers. But the final decision lies with the leaders. 

“I don’t think there is any longer the need to say this one is hesitant, that one isn’t. I think countries will speak for themselves and my expectation is that there will be a final view from the leaders and I hope we will be able to put this matter to rest following their deliberations.”

She said the foreign ministers were “close to finality” in terms of their report.