South Africa Defends Upcoming Military Exercises with Russia and China

South Africa Defends Upcoming Military Exercises with Russia and China (News Central TV)

South Africa’s foreign minister has defended the planned joint military exercises with Russia and China, saying that holding such exercises with “friends” was the normal path of ties.

Naledi Pandor made her remarks while meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in South Africa 11 months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

South Africa Defends Upcoming Military Exercises with Russia and China (News Central TV)

Lavrov arrived in South Africa a day before US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, as part of a lengthy journey to the continent to strengthen ties with the US.  The White House in Washington raised concern over South Africa’s military ambitions.

“The United States has concerns about any country … exercising with Russia as Russia wages a brutal war against Ukraine,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

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She stated that she had no information to share about discussions with South Africa on the subject.  Some opposition groups and South Africa’s small Ukrainian population have expressed concern over hosting Lavrov.  South Africa claims to be neutral in the Ukraine conflict and has voted against U.N. resolutions on the conflict.

It maintains tight connections with Moscow, which was a friend of the ruling African National Congress when it was a liberation movement against white minority rule, and will host a joint exercise with Russia and China on its east coast from February 17 to 27.

“All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide. It’s the natural course of relations,” Pandor told reporters in Pretoria, South Africa, beside Lavrov.

South Africa Defends Upcoming Military Exercises with Russia and China (News Central TV)
Members of China’s team operate with their Type 96A tank during the Tank Biathlon competition at the International Army Games 2022 in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia August 16, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

On February 24, the anniversary of Russia’s “special military operation,” the exercise will begin. Ukraine and its allies accuse Russia of stealing land from its neighbour and fellow ex-Soviet republic.

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The government of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has stated a wish to act as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict.

Pandor emphasised that, while South Africa had initially called on Russia to withdraw unilaterally from Ukraine, it was no longer the case.

Lavrov stated that the military exercises were transparent and that Russia, China, and South Africa had provided all pertinent information.

The South African military forces said last week the exercise was a means to improve the existing blooming relations between South Africa, Russia and China.

South Africa, according to Pandor, will not be drawn into choosing sides, while the West has been accused of criticising Russia while disregarding concerns such as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

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