Ramaphosa urges end to Ukraine war during talks with Zelenskyy

South African president calls for a ‘negotiated end’ to the conflict as he continues a delicate balancing act.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa has to date resisted calls to condemn Russia for its invasion [File: Johanna Geron/Pool via Reuters]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for an end to the conflict in Ukraine during talks by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, warning that the war threatens food security in Africa.

Rampahosa said on Thursday that the pair had discussed the “tragic human cost” of Moscow’s offensive as well as its “global ramifications”.

“We agree on the need for a negotiated end to the conflict which has impacted Ukraine’s place in global supply chains, including its position as a major exporter of food to our continent,” he tweeted.

Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat and corn, among other foodstuffs, to Africa and the weeks-long war in the country has disrupted supplies and sent prices climbing, spurring fears of a hunger crisis.

On his part, Zelenskyy said he had told Rampahosa about Ukraine’s “resistance to Russian aggression” and that both leaders discussed the “threat of a global food crisis”.

Till date, Ramaphosa has resisted calls to condemn Russia for its invasion. In mid-March, he blamed the transatlantic, United-States-led NATO military alliance for not heeding warnings from Moscow about its eastward expansion.

He has also claimed that South Africa’s “neutrality” allowed it to “talk to both sides” over the conflict following a controversial call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 10.

That call followed South Africa’s decision to abstain alongside with 34 other countries from voting on a United Nations General Assembly resolution denouncing Russia’s offensive – a stance that drew criticism from the US and its Western allies.

Ramaphosa is the leader of the African National Congress (ANC) party, which has governed South Africa since white minority rule ended in 1994.

The ANC had strong ties to the former Soviet Union because of its support for the anti-apartheid struggle in the country and sees itself as a champion of the non-aligned movement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies