Iran has been invited to become a member of the BRICS group of emerging economies, whose leaders are in Johannesburg, South Africa, to discuss the bloc’s expansion.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday that the BRICS member states agreed to admit Iran, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia as new members.

The five current member states have reached a “consensus on the first phase of this expansion process” and have invited the six states to become new members of the BRICS group from January 1, 2024, he said at the group’s leader’s summit in Johannesburg.

Reacting to the news, Mohammad Jamshidi, the Iranian president’s deputy chief of staff for political affairs, said Iran’s membership in BRICS is a “historic development” and a “strategic success” for the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic.

“Felicitations to the Leader of Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] and the great nation of Iran,” Jamshidi said via X, formerly Twitter.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the expansion of BRICS will inject new impetus to the group’s cooperation mechanism.

This expansion has reflected BRICS’ determination for unity and cooperation, Xi said at the summit.

“This membership expansion is historic,” he said. “The expansion is also a new starting point for BRICS cooperation. It will bring new vigor to the BRICS cooperation mechanism and further strengthen the force for world peace and development.”

UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed said he appreciated the inclusion of his country as a new member of the “important group.”

“We look forward to a continued commitment of cooperation for the prosperity, dignity and benefit of all nations and people around the world,” he posted on X.

Speaking via video link at the closing news conference of the three-day summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked his South African counterpart for handling the summit and for his efforts to expand the bloc.

The group was formed by and initially consisted of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, which collectively represent around 40% of the global population and a quarter of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Iran was among dozens of countries that sought membership in BRICS and had submitted a formal application to join the body.

Iranian President Raisi arrived in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, on Thursday morning to attend a summit of the BRICS countries.

“BRICS has managed to bring together independent countries with the common goal of [bolstering] economic cooperation and countering unilateralism,” he said on Wednesday evening before his departure.

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