- Russia’s Lavrov on visit for talks with key African allies
- Then head to Eswatini, Botswana and Angola
- South Africa’s Pandor says naval training is ‘natural’
- President Ramaphosa sees South Africa as a neutral party
PRETORIA, Jan 23 (Reuters) – South Africa’s foreign minister on Wednesday dismissed criticism of plans for joint military exercises with Russia and China, saying it was “natural” to host joint exercises with “friends”. relationship,” he said.
Naledi Pandor made the comments during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was visiting South Africa 11 months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The South African official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak, said Lavrov would then visit Eswatini, Botswana and Angola.
South Africa is one of Russia’s most important allies on the continent, divided over aggression and Western attempts to isolate Moscow for its military actions.
Some opposition parties and South Africa’s small Ukrainian community say hosting Lavrov is insensitive.
South Africa abstained from voting on UN resolutions on war, arguing it was impartial about the Ukraine conflict.
Moscow, a friend of the African National Congress during its liberation movement against white minority rule, will hold joint exercises with Russia and China on the east coast from February 17 to 27. .
“All countries are having military exercises with friends around the world. It’s a natural progression of relationships,” Pandor told reporters in the capital Pretoria alongside Lavrov.
The exercise will begin on February 24, the one-year anniversary of what Russia calls a “special military operation.” Ukraine and her allies say Russia has launched an imperial land grab.
The government, led by President Kirill Ramaphosa, has said it intends to mediate the Ukraine conflict as a neutral party.
Mr Pandor stressed that South Africa, which had initially asked Russia to unilaterally withdraw from Ukraine, was no longer in that position.
“Given the massive arms transfer (to Ukraine) and all the events (beyond), I would seem a very simplified infant for Mr. Lavrov today,” she said. .
South Africa has little trade with Russia, but a worldview favored by China and Russia that seeks to undo perceived U.S. hegemony in favor of a “multipolar” world with more diffuse geopolitical power. I am defending
Lavrov said the military exercises were transparent and that Russia, China and South Africa provided all relevant information.
South Africa’s military said last week that the exercises were “a way to strengthen the already prosperous ties between South Africa, Russia and China”.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Monday that Russian warships armed with new-generation hypersonic cruise weapons will participate in the exercises.
Mr. Lavrov was on a visit ahead of a summit between Russia and Africa in July. There was no official comment from the Ukrainian embassy, but officials said they had asked the South African government to help advance Ukraine’s peace plan.
Pandor said South Africa would not be dragged to one side and accused the West of blaming Russia while ignoring issues such as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
“South Africa has consistently expressed its readiness to support the peaceful resolution of conflicts on the (African) continent and around the world,” Pandor said.
Reporting by Carien Du Plessis, Anait Miridzhanian, Alexander Winning, Estelle Shirbon; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Philippa Fletcher
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