S/Africa defends planned military drills with Russia, China

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has responded to criticism of her country's planned joint military drills with Russia and…

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has responded to criticism of her country’s planned joint military drills with Russia and China, telling journalists late Monday that the exercise was a “natural course of relations.”Speaking after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pretoria, Pandor slammed what she called global “double standards” that allow Western countries to perform military drills with other countries while the likes of Russia and China are not allowed to do the same. 

“All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide,” Pandor said.

South Africa has come under criticism since the announcement that it would host the drills from 17 February to 27 February in the port city of Durban and Richards Bay.

A defiant Pandor said any criticism of South Africa’s involvement in the military drills was an “abuse of international practice”.

“This is just a natural set of exercises that occur between countries,” she said.

The military exercises seek to share operational skills and knowledge, according to the South African National Defence Force.

On his second visit to Africa since July 2022, Lavrov is on a mission to strengthen Russia’s ties with the continent in the aftermath of a global fallout caused by its invasion of Ukraine last February.

Despite pressure from Western countries to condemn the invasion, South Africa and many other African states have chosen to remain neutral, preferring to continue engaging with both countries in a business-as-usual manner.

The Russian minister was expected to also visit Angola, Botswana and Eswatini, according to sources.

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