By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor on Monday defended her country’s decision to hold a joint naval exercise with Russia and China next month off its east coast.
“All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide, so there should be no compulsion on any country that they should not conduct them with any other partner. It’s part of a natural course of relationships between countries,” Pandor said in a joint media briefing alongside her visiting Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, who is in the country for bilateral talks.
She said African nations needed to resist being held to a double standard by other countries that say “what I do is ok for me, but you can’t do it because you are a developing country, or you are Africa.”
“That is an abuse of international practice,” she added.
Days before Lavrov’s arrival, South Africa announced that it would hold joint naval exercises with Russia and China, which drew criticism against the government for carrying out the drill amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
The South African National Defense Forces (SANDF) said in a statement that “as a means to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China, a multinational maritime exercise between these three countries will take place in Durban and Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal province from 17-27 February,"
The exercise, called Mosi, meaning “Smoke” in Tswana, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages, will draw 350 SANDF personnel who will participate alongside their Russian and Chinese counterparts.
The training will also coincide with South Africa's Armed Forces Day celebrations which will be held in Richards Bay.
Pandor said they discussed with Lavrov the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and reiterated South Africa’s position, which wishes that the conflict be brought to an end through diplomacy and negotiations.
“We exchanged notes regarding the settlement of the existing conflicts on the African continent, including the Great Lakes region, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali and northern Mozambique,” Lavrov said on his part.
He said Russia believes that Africans have to define for themselves the solutions to these conflicts and problems on the continent.
“The international community has to support the ways of settlement chosen by African countries themselves, including in the framework of the African Union and its regional organizations,” he added.
South Africa, a member of the BRICS group of nations along with Russia, Brazil, India and China, has taken a neutral stance on the Ukraine war, drawing criticism from some Western countries. It has also abstained from voting on the issue at the UN.