Six African presidents will travel to Kiev and Moscow to negotiate a ceasefire as South African Army chief meets his Russian counterpart
South Africa’s foreign ministry has announced that six African presidents are soon expected to jointly travel to Moscow and Kiev in hopes of facilitating negotiations between the two countries. Details of the endeavor are still being finalized but their mission could take place in early June, Bloomberg reported.
“The six heads of state will be shuttling between the two capitals to engage in the facilitating of peace talks, to at least get toward a cease-fire,” said Department of International Relations and Cooperation Director-General Zane Dangor.
In a virtual meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday, Dangor stated that the initiative has already been shared with the UN secretary-general, who is supporting it. “We have also engaged with other actors, including the US. There is general support for this initiative that President Ramaphosa announced,” he said.
Dangor also noted that Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, will meet her Ukrainian counterpart in Portugal in the coming days to discuss the African initiative.
The official’s statement comes after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday that the leaders of Egypt, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal and the Republic of the Congo had expressed their willingness to take part in the peace initiative and that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky had agreed to host the mission.
South Africa –a member of the BRICS group along with Brazil, Russia, India and China– is among the countries that have refused to take part in the US-led campaign to sanction Moscow over the ongoing situation in Ukraine. Ramaphosa has repeatedly stressed that his country has a tradition of non-alignment and insisted that South Africa “has not been, and will not be, drawn into a contest between global powers.”
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated that Moscow is prepared to consider proposals put forth by African and Latin American nations. He noted, however, that Western nations don’t appear to be as open-minded and only seem to acknowledge President Zelensky’s ten-step ‘peace plan,’ which involves the “capitulation of Russia,” a tribunal against the Russian leadership, and reparations for Ukraine.
“The West claims that this is the only plan that is currently on the table and which it supports,” Lavrov surmised, noting that Zelensky has repeatedly declined to hold any talks with Moscow and has officially outlawed negotiations with Russia so long as Putin remains president.
Meanwhile, the commander of South Africa’s ground forces has visited Moscow for bilateral talks with his Russian counterparts, in the wake of Washington’s accusations that Pretoria has covertly supplied arms to Russia.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said on Monday that Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha received an invitation from the Russian army “for a goodwill visit,” which “includes a call to the higher combined Army Academy and the Artillery Military Academy.” The SANDF added that the trip had been “planned well in advance,” emphasizing that the bilateral encounter is a “longstanding arrangement.”
South Africa, as a member of the BRICS alliance, has declined to impose sanctions on Moscow, despite pressures from Western countries. President Cyril Ramaphosa has emphasized that South Africa’s neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict allows it to engage in dialogue with both sides.
Last week, US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety alleged that Pretoria had shipped weapons to Russia in December, loading them onto a cargo ship at Simon’s Town Naval Base in Cape Town. The South African government has denied the claims, which Ramaphosa said “undermine the spirit of cooperation and partnership” between Pretoria and Washington.
Brigety later allegedly admitted that he’d “crossed the line and apologised unreservedly” after he was summoned to South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation on Friday for a talk with Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor.