South African diplomat comments on Putin arrest warrant
South Africa will host the 15th annual BRICS summit this August, the country’s ambassador to Russia has confirmed, dismissing speculation that it may be moved elsewhere due to an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking to RT on Friday, Mzuvukile Jeff Maqetuka said plans for the gathering between August 22 and 24 in Johannesburg were well underway.
Recent reports suggested that South Africa was considering relocating the summit to China in order to avoid dealing with the ICC’s warrant against Putin. It was issued in March on foot of allegations of war crimes. China, however, is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC.
Maqetuka said Pretoria understands its international obligation as a signatory of the statute, but that there were no plans to move the event to another nation.
“South Africa has made it very clear,” he said, adding that Pretoria is engaging “with all parties” in relation to the ICC warrant. “The position still remains as far as South Africa is concerned; the summit would be held in Johannesburg as has been agreed on,” Maqetuka told RT.
Earlier this month, South African Deputy Minister Obed Bapela said the country was making legislative changes to make its national laws outrank the ICC. The law currently obliges Pretoria to arrest Putin if he touches down in the nation for the BRICS summit. The changes would mean South Africa can “give itself exemptions of who to arrest and who not to arrest,” Bapela told the BBC.
Maqetuka noted that the government has already granted diplomatic immunity to foreign officials attending the upcoming BRICS meetings, a move which was announced by the Foreign Affairs Ministry late last month. This is all done “within the framework of the ICC,” he said.
The diplomat also emphasized his country’s non-aligned stance on the Ukrainian conflict, pointing out that this is nothing new, but is based on its history as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). NAM was founded in 1961 to chart an independent course in global politics, preventing member countries from becoming players in struggles among major powers.
“South Africa has always taken a non-aligned position. It is a continuation of the position of South Africa,” he said, noting that this is the case “especially where there are military conflicts.” According to Maqetuka, this position has never jeopardized South Africa’s trade relations with other countries around the world.
Seven African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, will travel to Kiev and St. Petersburg next week to discuss a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict.