Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited South Africa on Monday for talks with an important ally.
He met with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor on a trip condemned by some as insensitive. Lavrov and Pandor are expected to hold a joint news conference later on Monday.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government regards South Africa as neutral in the conflict and has expressed a desire to mediate, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Pandor has criticized the West for its selective condemnation of Russia while ignoring other issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, despite self-proclaimed impartiality in the conflict – and abstention from voting on United Nations resolutions – South Africa has kept close relations with Russia. Moscow has historically been a friend of the governing African National Congress when it was a liberation movement against white minority rule.
South Africa has little trade with Russia but, like Moscow, seeks to change the perceived U.S.-hegemony in favor of a ‘multipolar’ world in which geopolitical power is more diffuse, Reuters reported.
Lavrov’s visit comes ahead of the Russia-Africa summit, which has been postponed to July 2023 from last year due to the Ukraine conflict. Additionally, the South African military is set to host a joint military exercise with Russia and China on its east coast in February, likely to strain ties with Washington and European countries further.