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In a letter obtained by the New York Times on June 13, a group of U.S. lawmakers called to move a U.S.-Africa summit from South Africa to a different host over Russia ties.
Johanessburg is set to host the meeting of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a U.S. investment and trade program in sub-Saharan Africa.
"We are seriously concerned that hosting the 2023 AGOA Forum in South Africa would serve as an implicit endorsement of South Africa's damaging support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine," reads the letter written on June 9 and addressed to U.S. Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken and other senior officials.
The group of Congress members calls into question South Africa's benefits under the (AGOA).
According to Reuters, South Africa's exports to the U.S. under AGOA reached nearly $1 billion in the first three months of this year, making it the second biggest beneficiary of the program after Nigeria.
While South Africa has avowed neutrality in the Ukraine-Russia War, it has been building a close relationship with Moscow. Both parties are members of the BRICS economic group and have cooperated on the military level, conducting joint naval drills on the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.
The U.S. government even accused South Africa of supplying weapons to Russia in May. The country denied this and later said that the U.S. ambassador in Pretoria has apologized on behalf of his country.
South Africa is scheduled to host leadership of the BRICS members during this year's summit, which should include Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March. Since South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute, it is obliged by international law to arrest the Russian leader.
According to the government's May 30 announcement, all participants will receive diplomatic immunity during the duration of the summit.