Russia Plays Leading Role in BRICS - South African Sherpa

Russia's presidency of BRICS has resulted in a total revamp of the organization, South African sherpa Anil Sooklal has told in an exclusive interview.

Sookhal, who is also his country's sherpa for the G20 and IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa), recalled that Moscow is one of the founding members of the bloc and a significant economic contributor.

"Russia has provided leadership throughout the period of BRICS' existence," he pointed out. The South African diplomat said he believes the five new members who joined the group this year will "enrich the BRICS family."

According to Sookhal, integrating the new members fully into the organization's culture and working with them will be an important dimension of Russia's presidency. "Each of them has their own strengths that they will bring into the BRICS fold," he added.

Meanwhile, Mamo Mihretu, sherpa representing new BRICS member Ethiopia, has told RT that "the BRICS family will provide a unique opportunity... to further boost bilateral trade investment, [and] enhance economic and financial cooperation."

He believes that the group could play a significant role in expressing "the voice of the global South."

The beginning of this year saw a groundbreaking expansion of the economic bloc. Previously comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, it has now admitted Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, while leaving the door open to accepting additional countries.

Argentina had been set to join as well, but newly-elected President Javier Milei reversed the decision, vowing to pursue closer ties with the West instead.

Numerous other states have expressed interest in becoming members of BRICS, and some have already formally submitted applications, including Venezuela, Thailand, Senegal, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Bahrain, and Pakistan.

The first meeting of BRICS sherpas and sub-sherpas is taking place in Moscow between January 30 and February 1, as part of Russia's presidency. The Kremlin has stated that the inclusion of the new members in common work is a priority for the group in 2024.