The leaders of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) have adopted the final declaration of the 15th Johannesburg-2 summit. The 94-point document is devoted mostly to economic issues and cooperation, while Ukraine is mentioned only once.
The decision to expand the group was the summit’s main outcome.
Iran and Saudi Arabia were among six countries set to join Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in the BRICS economic bloc from next year, the bloc announced Thursday, a move that will likely throw more scrutiny on Beijing's political influence in the Persian Gulf.
The United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia are also set to become new members of BRICS from 2024.
BRICS was set up in 2009 as a group of emerging market economies and has become one of the leading voices for more representation of the developing world and the Global South in world affairs.
It currently represents around 40% of the world's population and more than a quarter of the world's GDP, although that is set to increase with the new members, which include three of the world's biggest oil producers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran.
Recently, questions have been raised over if BRICS is taking an anti-West turn under the influence of China and Russia amid Beijing's deteriorating relationship with the United States and Russia's stand-off with the West over the war in Ukraine.
Mohammad Jamshidi, the political deputy of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, called the decision to add his country “a historic move.”
“A strategic victory for Iran’s foreign policy,” Jamshidi wrote on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. “Felicitations to the Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution and great nation of Iran.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose country presently chairs BRICS, made the announcement on the six new members on the final day of the bloc's summit in the financial district of Sandton in Johannesburg.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are attending the summit and were present alongside Ramaphosa for the announcement.
“This membership expansion is historic,” Xi said. “It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and development.”
“Over the years, China has stood in solidarity with developing countries through thick and thin."
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not travel to the summit after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him in March for the abduction of children from Ukraine. He has participated in the summit virtually, while Russia was represented at the announcement in Johannesburg by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (AP)
While Saudi Arabia had been touted as a likely new member if the five current BRICS members reached a consensus on expansion, Iran's inclusion had been viewed as possibly politically problematic. China and Russia were pushing for expansion, but Brazil, India and South Africa, which have strong bilateral ties with the U.S., only gave their approval more recently.
The current members agreed on the final details of expansion after two days of talks in Johannesburg, although Ramaphosa said the idea had been worked on for over a year. The BRICS leaders began their talks in Johannesburg on Tuesday night and were locked in discussions most of the day Wednesday, thrashing out the final details. BRICS is a consensus-based organization and all members have to agree on policies.