South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday blamed NATO for the war in Ukraine and said he would resist calls to condemn Russia, in comments that cast doubt over whether he would be accepted by Ukraine or the West as a mediator.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” Ramaphosa said, a view also maintained by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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Ramaphosa did, however, say South Africa “cannot condone the use of force and violation of international law”, an apparent reference to the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.
Kyiv and its Western allies believe Russia launched the unprovoked war to subjugate a neighbour Putin calls an artificial state.
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Ramaphosa also revealed that Putin had assured him personally that negotiations were making progress. The South African leader said he had not yet talked with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
On Friday, Ramaphosa’s office said South Africa had been asked to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and that he had told Putin it should be settled through negotiations. He did not say who had asked him to intervene.
“There are those who are insisting that we should take a very adversarial stance against Russia. The approach we are going to take (instead) is … insisting that there should be dialogue,” Ramaphosa added. “Screaming and shouting is not going to bring an end to this conflict.”
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