South Africa’s foreign minister on Monday deflected criticism of joint military drills planned with Russia and China, saying that hosting such exercises with “friends” was the “natural course of relations.”
Naledi Pandor made her comments during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting South Africa 11 months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A South African official, who declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak, said Lavrov would afterwards visit Eswatini, Botswana and Angola.
South Africa is one of Russia’s most important allies on a continent divided over the invasion and Western attempts to isolate Moscow because of its military actions.
Lavrov visited a day before U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was due to arrive in South Africa, part of a lengthy trip to the continent designed to shore up ties with the United States.
In Washington, the White House expressed worry about South Africa’s military plans.