The head of European diplomacy, who returns from a visit to South Africa and Botswana, criticizes Pretoria for refusing to condemn the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
Interviews collected by Mathilde Boussion (Johannesburg, Correspondence)
Josep Borrell is the high representative of the European Commission for external affairs and the security policy. From January 26 to 29, he was visiting South Africa and Botswana. In an interview with the world, he returns to the struggle of influence between Westerners to Russia on the African continent since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Sergei Lavrov was visiting Pretoria a few days before you, as well as the American Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. Africa has become the scene of a fight of influence between great powers?
Josep Borrell Yes, Africa is undoubtedly a battlefield: a battle of stories around the war in Ukraine. Russia clearly has support in the region and it conducts an intense diplomatic activity. We also try to explain the causes and consequences of this war.
South Africa, which refrains from condemning Russian aggression, is it at the heart of this battle?
South Africa is a very important country, one of our strategic partners, and we regret that it is not on the side of those who condemned the invasion. But it is not alone in the region. Others, however, have clearly condemned the violation of the United Nations Charter.
At the end of your meeting with Naledi Pandor, South African Minister for Foreign Affairs, you said to yourself “irritated” by “disagreements” with South Africa …
We respect the choices of foreign policy of all independent states. But the first thing, if we start from this principle, is that Ukraine also has the right to have the alliances it wants, which Russia does not seem to accept. Then, we understand that South Africa can have historical or ideological reasons for not wanting to criticize Russia. But not to condemn the invasion of a country in violation of the Charter of the United Nations is something else. If you want to be on the side of the charter, you should condemn an invasion. The neutrality of South Africa is not one.
You believe that South Africa has taken the side of Russia?
If you say “we are not aligned” while cajolizing Russia and leading military maneuvers with it, we begin to believe that you are not so unlined. South Africa replies: “We make naval maneuvers with whom we want.” Certainly, but to make maneuvers with Russia and China on the day of the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine has a symbolic value. We would have preferred that they do not do it.
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