South Africa’s president insisted his country won’t be drawn into taking sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, even as it faces pressure from some of its main trading partners to change course.
“Some countries, including our own, are being threatened with penalties for pursuing an independent foreign policy and for adopting a position of non-alignment,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a speech on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Thursday.
“We will maintain our position on the peaceful resolution of conflict wherever those conflicts occur.”
Ramaphosa’s comments come weeks after US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety accused Pretoria of contradicting its neutral stance by supplying weapons to Russia, an allegation Ramaphosa has denied.
Brigety implied that South Africa may lose its duty-free access to American markets, a prospect that sent the rand to a record low against the dollar before the two governments sought to smooth over the diplomatic row.
South Africa’s hosting of an August summit of leaders from the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — may reignite tensions: Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend, and South Africa is yet to decide how it will handle an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest if he does.