South Africa rules out ending friendship with Russia

By S’thembile Cele

South Africa’s government will not break ties with Russia at the behest of other countries, its foreign affairs minister said ahead of bilateral talks.

“There are some who don’t wish us to have relations with an old historical friend,” International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor told journalists in Pretoria. “We have made it clear that Russia is a friend we have had cooperative partnerships for many years,” she said.

Russia’s natural resources and environment minister, Alexander Kozlov, appeared alongside Pandor for the start of the 17th bilateral meeting between the countries.

“While we are friends with many all over the world we cannot become sudden enemies at the demand of others,” Pandor said.

Read more: Premium – RW Johnson: The coming crunch over South Africa-Russia relations

South Africa has adopted a neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government’s position has drawn criticism from some of its largest trading partners, including the US and the European Union, along with some of its biggest banks and investment companies.

It is taking legal advice on how to handle an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin in the event the Russian leader attends a BRICS summit in South Africa in August.

The ICC issued the warrant against Putin on March 18 for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine. South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court, and may be obliged to execute the arrest order.

Pandor again called for a peaceful resolution to the war. “We as South Africa remain hopeful that we can find a diplomatic solution to the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” she said.

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