Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu, China Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Brazil Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Galvao during the BRICS Ministerial Meeting at OR Tambo Building in Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
IN A SHOW of remarkable solidarity, the BRICS foreign ministers met in Pretoria yesterday ahead of the 10th BRICS Summit to be hosted by South Africa in July.

The theme that emanated strongly was the need to strengthen multilateralism, and in the words of Sergey Lavrov, “our common position is that we have zero tolerance for unilateralism”.

BRICS has largely focused on economic and trade issues in the past, but the ministers emphasised the fact that they discussed global hot spots, covering a broad pano- ply of conflicts including Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and the Korean peninsula.

“We need to find inclusive negotiated solutions to conflicts,” Minister for International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu said.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the gathering: “The world is facing unprecedented changes, and there is an expectation for BRICS to play a bigger role.”

The remarks of the ministers suggested that BRICS may broaden its focus beyond trade, investment and development financing, and the partners may work towards developing common political positions on many of the pressing issues confronting the world today.

In a clear rebuff to the United States which has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and announced harsh sanctions will be imposed on Iran, the BRICS ministers recalled the importance that all relevant parties of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue fully comply with their obligations. They must also ensure full and effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to promote international and regional peace and security.

The ministers expressed concern over the ongoing conflict and heightened tensions in the Middle-East region, especially with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

While reiterating the need for renewed diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting comprehensive settlement of the conflict, the ministers reiterated their position that the status of Jerusalem is one of the final status issues to be defined in the context of negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

The ministers also reiterated their support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, commending the vital role it plays in providing health, education and other basic services for almost 5.3million Palestinian refugees.

The collective statement on Syria reflected the fact that the ministers back an inclusive “Syrian-led, Syrian-owned” political process which safeguards the state's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria. They also expressed their support for the efforts by Russia to advance the Syrian national dialogue.

Beyond conflicts, the ministers referred to one of the major accomplishments of the BRICS group - the institutional progress of the New Development Bank. In addition to the newly opened Africa Regional Centre launched last year, the Foreign Minister of Brazil, Aloysio Nunes, made reference to the fact that next year will see the opening of the Americas branch of the New Development Bank in São Paulo.

The Foreign Minister of India Sushma Swaraj assured the press that had assembled from all four emerging economies that India attached great importance to BRICS and will work towards greater intra-BRICS co-operation. “We want to place people at the heart of Brics there is a lot of interest in BRICS within India,” Swaraj said.