EU Foreign Affairs Ministers meet in Brussels
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks to members of the media as he attends a European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels, Belgium January 23, 2023. Reuters

The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday he hoped South Africa would use its good relations with Russia to convince it end the conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking alongside South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor in the capital Pretoria, Borrell said the EU was not asking South Africa to choose sides but rather just asking countries across the world to stand with the United Nations Charter.

"This is not only a European war. It's happening on European soil but affects the whole world," he said.

Pandor said the solutions for the current problems lie in multilateralism and that everyone must seek to find a common ground.

"It's not just South Africa and other African countries that must play a role at seeking peace. It's all of us that must be seeking to arrive at a negotiated outcome to address the concerns of all the parties involved," she said.

Borrell's visit to South Africa comes days after Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov also held talks in Pretoria with Pandor. South Africa is one of Russia's most important allies on a continent divided over the invasion and Western attempts to isolate Moscow because of its military actions.

Borrell also touched upon a dispute over citrus fruit exports from South Africa to EU, saying it was being dealt with at the highest levels.

South Africa and EU have failed to reach an agreement over tough EU restrictions that halted South African citrus exports to the EU almost six months ago.

In July last year, the EU implemented new phytosanitary rules requiring enhanced cold treatment for orange imports from Africa amid concerns over the False Coddling Moth (FCM), a pest which affects citrus fruit.

The citrus sector generates 30 billion rand ($1.75 billion) in annual exports, and the EU is its biggest market.

"Unhappily we haven't reached an agreement today," Borrell said.

"We just expressed our will to continue discussing about it at the highest political level. We understand the urgency, we understand the importance," he said, referring to over 100,000 jobs threatened by the halting of the exports.

A South African government official who attended the meeting said there was a standoff between the two sides about the issue as the two-hour meeting ran over by about an hour.

($1 = 17.1886 rand)