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Expanded BRICS seen as antidote to conflict

By JAN YUMUL and XU WEIWEI in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-28 07:27

Journalists gather at the media center of the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday. GRIGORY SYSOEV/SPUTNIK

Six new members welcomed into group, bringing countries closer

Experts have hailed the entry of Middle Eastern countries into the BRICS bloc of developing nations, seeing it as bringing national shared interests closer together in a region long constrained by conflict.

With the long-term interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia expected to intertwine, BRICS could help secure stability in the region, create a balance in world energy markets and improve regional and food security, they said.

Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with Argentina and Ethiopia, were invited to become new BRICS members, joining the original members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, with their membership to take effect from Jan 1 next year.

"The most significant part in my opinion is that four of the six countries invited as full members are from the Middle East," said Furkan Halit Yolcu, a researcher at Sakarya University Middle East Institute in Turkiye.

BRICS membership boosts the prestige of Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are struggling under current US foreign policy, he said.

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, executive director of the Center for South Asia and International Studies in Islamabad, said the policymakers at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg last week had achieved one of their biggest goals by inviting the six developing countries and signaling a "drastic change in global geopolitics and geoeconomics".

Expanding BRICS will also improve regional and food security, he said.

The ministries of foreign affairs of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE separately issued statements on being invited to join BRICS.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said the country's "great success in joining BRICS" will not only strengthen multilateralism but "can pave the way for pursuing the objectives of this administration", and expand other grand strategies to implement Iran's dynamic diplomacy.

Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm, former professor at the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Faculty of International Relations, said the country's accession to BRICS was a "setback for the United States" in its attempts to stifle the country.

"Now Iran is taking very wide jumps after joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and now the BRICS group of countries, showing that the US push for isolating Iran has failed."

On a larger scale, he said, this shows that "the world is changing now", as has been acknowledged by Western intellectuals, politicians and officials for the past two or three years. Global power, he said, was "on a transition from the West to the East".

"On a different dimension, this will also have very positive outcomes for the West Asian states, for the Persian Gulf states. Iran and Saudi Arabia started a rapprochement with the help of the Chinese."

In addition to China-brokered rapprochement and the enhancement of bilateral ties, Khoshcheshm said, relations between the two Middle Eastern powers will be more intimate under the BRICS grouping.

Shared interests

"When shared interests are intertwined and intermingled with each other, then there will be more stability and more security in the Persian Gulf region and for West Asia because the two can find more grounds for economic cooperation than hostility and rivalry."

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at the summit that the kingdom is the largest BRICS trading partner in the Middle East, with the value of its bilateral trade with the countries of the group exceeding $160 billion last year.

Prince Faisal expressed appreciation for the invitation extended by the BRICS group and said Riyadh would be studying it, adding that Saudi foreign policy focuses on building economic partnerships, according to a report by the newspaper Saudi Gazette.

The UAE Foreign Ministry said the country has been "a long-term partner of the BRICS group".

The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed his appreciation to the founding countries of BRICS and said the invitation forms part of the UAE's commitment to promote constructive dialogue through active platforms that represent developing and emerging economies.

The UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimy said the UAE recognizes BRICS "as a mechanism to promote global peace, stability and prosperity".

Khan in Islamabad said the UAE has become the biggest country for the re-export of numerous goods and essential food items, a connecting hub for investment and innovation, and a bridge between the Gulf and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Given the overwhelming interest shown by many countries in joining BRICS, the success in building consensus in inviting as many as six new members is a reflection of both the bloc's self-confidence in opening itself to new members just as it underlines its growing credibility, said Swaran Singh, professor of diplomacy and disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India.

What is even more interesting is how all five national leaders indicated this to be only a beginning and that many more aspirant nations are likely to be added to the bloc in coming years, Singh said. This has implications for most of the conventional post-World War II global governance structures that have failed to accommodate these emerging economies, he said.

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