China supports South Africa in hosting various BRICS activities this year, President Xi Jinping told his counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa Friday in a phone call, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The call took place as Pretoria considers switching the venue of an upcoming summit of heads of state from the five-member bloc to avoid having to execute an international arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin if he attends. The bloc’s other members are Brazil and India.
South Africa’s preparations for hosting the summit were upended by the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue the warrant for Putin in March alleging responsibility for war crimes in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As a signatory to the court, South Africa’s government would be obliged to detain Putin if he attends the BRICS gathering in Johannesburg in August.
While the Chinese statement cited Xi as saying that China was willing to boost bilateral ties with South Africa and jointly promote the interests of developing nations, it made no reference to the possibility of the summit being moved to the Asian nation.
China isn’t a member of the ICC, meaning Putin could travel there without fear of arrest.
Vincent Magwenya, Ramaphosa’s spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
South Africa and five other African nations last month proposed a new initiative to help bring an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Ramaphosa held talks June 5 with other African leaders involved in the initiative, including Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The heads of state are available to travel to Ukraine and Russia in mid-June, the South African presidency said.
Xi welcomed the African initiative, while Ramaphosa supported China’s proposal of a “political settlement” to the war, according to the statement.