Six African nations are pushing for peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, and will soon send a peacekeeping delegation to both Kyiv and Moscow to assist with mediation, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday.
The South African leader revealed he had held “separate telephone calls” with his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts, Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin, who both expressed a willingness to participate in the talks.
“I agreed with both President Putin and President Zelensky to commence with preparations for engagements with the African heads of state,” Ramaphosa told reporters at a press conference in Cape Town during a state visit by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The delegation will see the South African president accompanied by officials from Congo, Egypt, Uganda, Senegal and Zambia.
“We’re hoping we will have intensive discussions,” Ramaphosa said. “This peacekeeping mission will add to several other missions to end this conflict,” he added.
Both the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the African Union (AU) have reportedly welcomed the initiative proposed by the group of six African nations.
South Africa has remained publicly neutral throughout the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, although the United States did accuse Pretoria last week of supplying weapons to the Russian military, a claim firmly denied by the South African government.
The claims were made publicly by the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, who expressed his belief that weapons were loaded onto the Russian ship Lady R from a naval base in Cape Town in December last year.
Ramaphosa reiterated his country’s neutrality with regard to the conflict on Monday, and insisted South Africa would not be drawn “into a contest between global powers,” despite facing “extraordinary pressure” to choose sides.
“We do not accept that our non-aligned position favors Russia above other countries. Nor do we accept that it should imperil our relations with other countries,” Ramaphosa added.