Johannesburg — The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell visited South Africa on Friday, urging Pretoria to use its ties with Russia to convince Moscow to stop its war on Ukraine.
Borrell's trip to South Africa is the latest in a whirlwind week that has seen visits by both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Analysts say the flurry of diplomatic activity comes as the West and Russia both seek South Africa's support regarding the war in Ukraine. Pretoria has strong historic ties with Moscow and has taken an officially neutral stance on the conflict, to the dismay of Washington and Brussels.
"I very much hope that South Africa, our strategic partner, will use its good relations with Russia and the role it plays in the BRICS group to convince Russia to stop this senseless war," Borrell said at a press conference. BRICS is an informal group of states comprising the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Borrell said South Africa could make an important contribution this way, but South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said it was the task of the world to make peace.
Earlier this week, Pandor gave Lavrov a warm welcome in Pretoria. Asked by a reporter whether she would repeat the call made by her ministry early last year for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, she said she would not, noting the massive transfer of arms to Ukraine that had since occurred.
Next month, South Africa will host much-criticized military exercises with China and Russia. Borrell said Pretoria has the right to follow its own foreign policy, but he noted the drills were not what the EU "would have preferred."