S.Africa open to hosting Ukraine peace talks: govt
JOHANNESBURG, June 9, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - South Africa said it was open to hosting talks between Russia and Ukraine on Thursday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed an African leaders' peace mission seeking to end the conflict.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said last month that Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had both agreed to receive a six-member African peace team. The mission is expected to launch this month.
"We must be receptive to the possibility of South Africa hosting the peace summit here," Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, a minister in the president's office, told journalists in Pretoria.
"If we are part of the initiative for peace and a venue for a summit is sought, the first place you look is within your backyard".
Earlier Thursday, Ramaphosa's office said the President had spoken by phone with Putin.
The Russian leader had "welcomed the initiative by African Heads of State and expressed his desire to receive the peace mission".
The delegation announced by Ramaphosa last month comprises the presidents of the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.
African countries have been badly hit by rising prices for grain since Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- a major global source of wheat and other agriculture commodities -- and the war's wider impact on world trade.
The peace mission comes as South Africa is looking to burnish its neutrality credentials following accusations that it has drifted towards the Kremlin.