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'Talk to Putin, Pretoria!': Belgium

Belgium's Queen Mathilde (L) and Belgium's King Philippe (2nd L) in Bukavu, DRC, June 12, 2022. Belgium has asked South Africa to engage Russia and work toward ending the Ukraine war.

PRETORIA - Belgium on Thursday called on South Africa to use its relationship with Russia to help end the war in Ukraine, during a state visit by the Belgian king to Pretoria.

"Given your strong historical links with Russia we would be delighted if you consider using your channels of communication to advance on a path towards peace" Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said during a press conference in Pretoria.

Lahbib is accompanying Belgium King Philippe and Queen Mathilde during their five-day and first state visit to South Africa.

"We have always looked up to South Africa as a key partner for peace and the defense of human rights," Lahbib said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa responded by saying Pretoria continues "to use the channel we have with talk about how the conflict can be brought to an end".

The continental powerhouse has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine which has largely isolated Moscow on the international stage, saying it wants to stay neutral and prefers dialogue to end the war.

The call came after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against President Vladimir Putin last Friday.

The ICC warrant "is obviously a matter that is of concern" South Africa's Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, told local media on the sidelines of the visit to the seat of government in Pretoria.

South Africa is due in August to host a summit of the BRICS - a bloc which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Pandor confirmed Putin has been invited to the summit.

South Africa is a member of the ICC and will be expected to execute the arrest warrant if Putin steps foot in the country.

Pandor said cabinet will meet "to decide exactly how we respond."

Last month Pretoria held a controversial joint military exercise with Russia and China.

South Africa's ties with Russia date back decades when the Kremlin backed the ruling African National Congress in its fight against apartheid.