The Gaza situation overshadowed the visit of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister to South Africa.
At a press conference in Pretoria, the focus was on the conflict in Gaza rather than the war in Ukraine, after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor.
Kuleba made his inaugural trip to South Africa in an effort to gain backing for Kyiv in a region where Moscow wields significant power. While Pretoria claims to remain impartial in the conflict in Ukraine, there are allegations from critics, including U.S. officials, that the South African government is effectively supporting Moscow.
Pandor, the Foreign Minister of South Africa, stated her hope for a peaceful resolution through negotiation to the conflict in Europe.
Minister, we have great concern about the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the ongoing casualties, and the highly alarming state of the humanitarian crisis,” she expressed.
Pandor refrained from condemning Russia but brought up Israel multiple times, stating that their actions in Gaza could be seen as “collective punishment.”
The government of South Africa has consistently supported Palestine and on Monday, a representative from the presidential office declared that Pretoria would be bringing back its diplomats from Israel.
Pandor expressed disapproval of recent statements made by the Israeli ambassador to the country and also criticized the United States.
Earlier this year, Ambassador Reuben Brigety accused South Africa of supplying weapons to Russia. However, this allegation was not backed up with evidence.
The Israeli ambassador has been making comments similar to those made by the US ambassador a few months ago, without any evidence to support them,” she stated. “It appears that some ambassadors in South Africa have a tendency to freely speak their minds.”
She suggested that this could be due to the fact that, as an African nation, “they” do not show us respect.
On the topic, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba frequently utilized language that Pretoria steers clear of regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, specifically mentioning the “invasion” and “Russian aggression.”
He mentioned that while Ukraine was once part of the Soviet Union, it had shown support for South Africans fighting against apartheid. He also emphasized that Kyiv is currently working to assist African nations in dealing with food shortages resulting from the conflict in Europe.
Kuleba mentioned that the talks with Pandor were productive and marked a new phase in the relationship between Ukraine and South Africa.
He also voiced apprehension about the situation in the Middle East.
When asked by journalists about whether the events in Gaza were diverting global focus from Ukraine, he advised against equating the situations in Ukraine and the Middle East, noting that “people are people no matter where they are.”
However, he acknowledged that the media often views the daily tragedies in Ukraine as commonplace.
Kuleba expressed deep distress over the lack of attention given to the loss of innocent lives and destruction in Ukraine. However, he acknowledges that this behavior is typical of the international community.
He stated that although the media may have changed their focus, he did not believe that Ukraine was receiving less political attention.