Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran are among the six countries invited to the BRICS group

Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his remarks virtually at the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on August 24.


Oil powers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been invited to become members of the BRICS group of developing nations in its first expansion in more than a decade.

Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina are also invited, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday as he wrapped up the group’s annual summit in Johannesburg.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the kingdom was awaiting details on the nature of membership from the BRICS group and would take an “appropriate decision” accordingly.

All six of them invited countries have already expressed interest in joining. The BRICS group currently includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“Membership will take effect from January 1, 2024,” Ramaphosa said.

In a video message, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the new BRICS members and added that the bloc’s global influence will continue to grow.

“I would like to congratulate the new members, who will be fully operational next year,” Putin said.

“And I would like to assure all our colleagues that we will continue the work we started today in expanding the influence of BRICS in the world,” the Russian president added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called the bloc’s expansion “historic,” mirroring hers a determination to “associate and cooperate with developing countries”.

“[It will] inject new momentum into the BRICS cooperation mechanism and further strengthen the power of world peace and development,” Jinping said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also welcomed the expansion, saying his country had always believed that adding new members would strengthen the bloc.

Speaking to Saudi Al Arabiya television, the Saudi foreign minister added that the bloc “has proven to be a useful and important channel for strengthening economic cooperation with the countries of the so-called global south.”

Bin Farhan told the BRICS conference on Thursday that the kingdom will continue to be a “safe and reliable supplier of energy,” he added, adding that total bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and the BRICS countries exceeded $160 billion in 2022.

If Saudi Arabia accepts the invitation, the world’s largest crude oil exporter will find itself in the same economic bloc as the world’s largest oil importer, China.

It will also mean that Russia and Saudi Arabia – both members of OPEC+, the group of major oil producers – will join each other in the new economic bloc. The two countries often coordinate oil production, which has drawn Saudi Arabia into conflict with its ally the United States in the past.

The expansion of the bloc raises the issue of possible de-dollarization, a process by which members would gradually transition to using currencies other than the US dollar for trade. The BRICS countries have also discussed a common currency, an idea that analysts have called unfeasible “unlikely” in the near future.

Putin said the issue of the common currency was a “difficult issue” but added “that we will move towards solving these problems.”

The expansion comes at a time when some BRICS members, namely Russia and China, are embroiled in rising tensions with the West.

Experts say the decision to include countries that are openly anti-Western, such as Iran, could tip the group further toward becoming an anti-Western bloc.

The group, built around a term originally coined by former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill to describe key emerging markets, has persisted despite wide differences in political and economic systems among its members.

“From an economic point of view, there are not many countries applying to join, particularly large ones,” O’Neill told Bloomberg earlier this week.

The existing BRICS members “had enough trouble trying to reach an agreement only among the five,” he added. “I’m not entirely sure what we would achieve with a lot more countries in there.”

BRICS held its first summit in 2009 with four members, then added South Africa the following year. In 2015, he founded his new development bank.

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan said on X, formerly Twitter: “We appreciate the inclusion of the UAE as a member of this important group.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said his country was looking forward to joining BRICS to boost economic cooperation among its members as well as “raise the voice of the global south”, the president’s spokesman said.

— Manveena Suri, Mostafa Salem, Lizzy Yee, Mengchen Zhang and Nadeen Ebrahim contributed to this article.

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