President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to use a Russian summit with fellow leaders in Africa to try and dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending a key BRICS alliance meeting of which South Africa is a member.
As reported by the Financial Times, the deputy president of South Africa, Paul Mashatile, said that Russia still wants Putin to attend the summit despite South Africa being placed in a diplomatic ally awkward position as an ICC member state.
Being an ICC member state means that upon the arrival of Putin in South Africa, the government would have an obligation under international law to arrest the Russian president for crimes relating to the Russian war in Ukraine.
The 15th BRICS summit is planned to be held in Johannesburg between the 22nd and 24th of August 2023 – with little set in stone regarding whether Putin will show face and, if so, what South Africa will do.
A spokesperson for Mashatile said that Ramaphosa is currently in direct conversation with Putin on the issue of the ICC.
The deputy president said Ramaphosa will travel to the Russia-Africa summit late this July and continue talks.
“We want to show him (Putin) the challenges that we face because we are part of the Rome Statute (the treating defining the court), and we can’t wiggle out of this,” Mashatile told the Financial Times.
In March this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused Putin of war crimes and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Since then, South Africa’s ties with Russia have been questioned by the international community and affected global markets. The United States, in response to South Africa, has begun talks of cancelling a critical trade agreement called the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
AGOA enables numerous sub-Saharan African countries to engage in duty-free trade of specific products with the United States. This legislation contributes billions of rands to the economy and supports the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.
The new developments follow reports from late June that Ramaphosa managed to keep the Russian leader at bay while on a ‘peace mission’ to Ukraine and Russia.
During the visit, Ramaphosa provided Putin with three options for the summit: not attending, tuning in virtually or attending at a different location. Sources indicated that Putin had chosen not to attend – this, however, has changed.