South Africa’s foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador to a meeting on Friday to express its «utter displeasure» over allegations he made that the country had supplied Russia for its war against Ukraine.
Reuben Brigety’s comments were «disconcerting and at odds with the cordial and mutually beneficial relationship that exists between the United States of America and South Africa,» South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Using a diplomatic term referring to a formal complaint, he added that Brigety, who had served as ambassador since last year, had been «fired.»
The ministry did not directly deny Brigety’s claim in a briefing for local journalists on Thursday that Washington was «certain» that the Russian cargo ship Lady R. had loaded arms and ammunition from South Africa in December.
Calling it «fundamentally unacceptable,» Brigety said she would «bet my life on the accuracy of that statement.»
The Lady R. was at the South African naval base at the time Brigety suggested, and is linked to a company sanctioned by the US for transporting weapons for the Russian government and aiding its war effort, according to the Associated Press. .
After meeting with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor on Friday, Brigety said on Twitter that he was «grateful» for the opportunity to «correct any wrong impressions left by my public comments.»
In a separate statement Friday, Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken with Pandor on Friday.
“Secretary Blinken underscored the importance of the strategic partnership between the United States and South Africa and reiterated cooperation on shared priorities, including health, trade and energy,” he said.
South Africa’s public diplomacy chief, Clayson Monyela, insisted in a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday that Pretoria had not violated its declared neutrality in the Ukraine conflict.
Monyela said his government’s arms control committee «has gone on record that it has not approved any arms sales to Russia, related to the period or incident in question,» adding that any claim that South Africa sold arms or is arming Russia was «factually incorrect.»
South Africa’s own arms control laws stipulate that the country «shall not trade in conventional arms with states engaged in repression, aggression or terrorism.»
His comments came after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement on Thursday that Brigety’s comments were «disappointing» and «counterproductive» and undermined an agreement between the United States and South Africa to conduct an independent inquiry into The issue.
When asked about the allegations in the South African National Assembly on Thursday, Ramaphose said they were «being investigated.»
South Africa refrained from condemning the Russian invasion in a United Nations vote last year and said it would take a neutral stance on the war, while calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The country also hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for talks in January, and allowed Russian and Chinese warships to use its waters for joint naval exercises that coincided with the first anniversary of the February invasion of Ukraine. .
Their historical relationship is based on the Soviet Union’s support for the ruling African National Congress when it was still a liberation group fighting to end apartheid.
Associated Press contributed.