Senior officials from more than a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, held talks to boost ties with the BRICS group on Friday, in meetings aimed at strengthening ties between them and making them a counterweight to the West.

The BRICS who include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, are considering expanding their membership, and a growing number of countries, mostly from the global south, have shown interest in joining.

The BRICS once seen become as a loose union of disparate emerging economies, but it has taken clearer contours in the past few years, supported initially by China and then gained additional impetus from Russia since the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022.

In opening remarks to Friday’s discussions, Naledi Pandor, the South African foreign minister hosting the meetings, spoke of the group as rich countries and global institutions had abandoned the champion of the developing world that she said during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The world has failed to cooperate,” Pandor said.

Developed countries have not fulfilled their obligations towards the developing world and are trying to place all responsibility on the shoulders of the global south.

It appeared in an official program that Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Comoros, Gabon and Kazakhstan have sent representatives to Cape Town to participate in talks called “BRICS Friends”.

Egypt, Argentina, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau and Indonesia participated remotely via the Internet.

China, the big power in the group, said last year it wanted to launch a process to accept new members.

Other members indicated which countries they would like to see join the club.

However, officials said on Thursday there was still work to be done and recognized the need to proceed with caution.

“BRICS represents a history of success… The group is also a landmark and an asset, so we have to take care of it,” said Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira.

Subramaniam Jeshinkar, India’s minister of Foreign Affairs said that Thursday’s talks included deliberations on principles, criteria and guiding procedures for what an enlarged BRICS would look like, adding, “This work is still in progress”.

India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has previously stressed the need for a public policy for such expansion, rather than considering nominations on an individual basis.

South Africa’s foreign minister said foreign ministers aimed to complete a framework for accepting new members before BRICS leaders meet at a summit in Johannesburg in August.

Preparations for the summit are moving ahead amid controversy over the possible attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant earlier this year.

As a member of the International Criminal Court, South Africa will face pressure to arrest Putin if he heads to the country for the summit.

Pretoria said it was still examining its legal options for hosting the Russian president.

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