South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has briefed Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about an upcoming mission by African leaders to Russia and Ukraine to try and broker peace, Pretoria said Saturday.
Ramaphosa announced last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky had agreed to receive a six-member African delegation, expected to visit this month.
Ramaphosa "has briefed" Xi, the South African presidency said in a statement. The delegation will group the presidents of the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.
His office did not specify when he spoke to Xi but said the Chinese leader "commended the initiative by the African continent and acknowledged the impact the conflict has had on human lives and on food security in Africa".
In February, Beijing released a paper calling for a "political settlement" to the conflict, which Western countries warned could enable Russia to hold much of the territory it has seized in Ukraine.
China says it is a neutral party but it has been criticized for refusing to condemn Moscow for its offensive and for its close strategic partnership with Russia.
Similarly, South Africa's ruling party which has close ties to the Kremlin since the anti-apartheid struggle years, has not condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying it is impartial and prefers dialogue.
African countries have been badly hit by rising prices for grain since Russia invaded Ukraine -- a major global source of wheat and other agriculture commodities -- in February last year.
The war had also had a wider impact on world trade.
The peace mission comes as South Africa is looking to burnish its credentials following accusations that it has drifted towards the Kremlin.
South Africa is also faced with diplomatic dilemma ahead of a BRICS summit scheduled for August in Johannesburg.
Putin, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children, has been invited to the summit.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa will be obliged to detain Putin on arrival.
The Xi and Ramaphosa talks also touched on preparations for the summit amid speculation that South Africa is considering moving the August meeting to China to avoid having to arrest Putin.
Both leaders "committed to work towards a successful summit," said the statement.
BRICS groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and aims at counterbalancing the traditional dominance of Europe and the United States on the world stage.
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