MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. One or two countries may join the BRICS association in 2023 and Saudi Arabia is the most probable candidate, Yaroslav Lisovolik, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council, told TASS on Sunday.
He recalled that the expansion of the association is a priority of South Africa’s presidency in 2023. "The probability of BRICS’s expansion is rather high. But I don’t think it will be a mass admission of states. If an expansion happens this year, it will be one or two countries," he said.
"Among the countries, which are being discussed by BRICS nations and which have expressed their interest in joining this group, Saudi Arabia has highest chances," the expert said, adding that the association is elaborating criteria for the admission of new members. These parameters, in his words, are expected to include a country’s leadership in its region and its weight in the global economy, especially "in key sectors, such as energy."
Based on these criteria, Saudi Arabia looks the most promising candidate. "It can be said that Saudi Arabia has leading position in the Middle East. Along with being a member of the Group of Twenty, this country is a key leader on the global energy market and is cooperating with Russia within OPEC+ quite constructively," he explained.
Another criterion for joining BRICS could be the state of a country’s economy. "It can be noted that amid the high energy prices, Saudi Arabia demonstrates quite good performance both from the point of view of economic growth and from the point of view of the margin of safety, which is characterized by the level of reserves," Lisovolik said, adding that Riyadh can add a range of new areas to the association’s activities, especially in what concerns cooperation between sovereign funds, "which can become a powerful force on global financial markets."
According to the expert, another option for BRICS in 2023 is its staying as it is with those willing to join it forming a BRICS+ association, like in OPEC+.
He noted that the increased interest to BRICS membership is a kind of response to the association’s bigger openness and its interest in expansion demonstrated under China’s presidency in 2022. "And the reaction of the developing world was not slow in coming. After a certain introspective period of focusing on internal matters, BRICS is now showing higher readiness for building relations with other developing countries," Lisovolik noted.
Another factor attracting new partners is the increased role of developing countries in the world and closer cooperation among them, including within international organizations and forums, such as the Group of Twenty.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that at least 12 nations were demonstrating interest in joining BRICS.