New Delhi, June 1: In a major move, the influential five-nation grouping BRICS on Tuesday supported a proposal by India and South Africa to temporarily waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines as it held extensive deliberations on effectively combating the coronavirus crisis, describing it as the one of the most serious global challenges in recent history.
In his opening remarks, External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar said the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) strives for a just, inclusive and equitable multipolar international system that recognises the sovereign equality of all states and respects their territorial integrity.
The virtual meeting, hosted by India in its capacity as BRICS chair, was attended by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, minister of international relations of South Africa Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor and Brazilian foreign minister Carlos Alberto Franco.
Jaishankar's comments highlighting the need for respecting territorial integrity came in the backdrop of the border standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh. Lavrov also made similar comments at a press conference in Moscow after the BRICS meeting.
A joint statement said the foreign ministers of the grouping also resolved to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the cross-border movement of terrorists and vowed to step up joint efforts in building support for an India-backed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
The foreign minister also resolved to finalise a "result-oriented action plan" by the bloc's counter-terrorism working group in 2021.
Sources said India was also able to get the foreign ministers to agree to strong language on counter-terrorism, including reference to cross-border movement of terrorists, terror financing networks and safe-havens.
In yet another important move, the ministers strongly pitched for strengthening and reforming the multilateral institutions especially the United Nations and its principal organs like UN Security Council and General Assembly, besides International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Health Organization (WHO).
The ministers issued a stand-alone statement on measures to reform the multilateral bodies.
Sources said the foreign ministers of the BRICS countries for the first time agreed on a common, stand-alone joint statement on reforming the multilateral system.
The BRICS brings together five of the largest developing countries of the world, representing 41 per cent of the global population, 24 per cent of the global GDP and 16 per cent of the global trade.
In their discussions on combating the coronavirus pandemic, the ministers underlined the urgency for expeditious development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, especially in developing countries, and called for further close cooperation among various stakeholders for a diversified vaccine portfolio.
"The ministers reaffirmed the need to use all relevant measures during the pandemic, including supporting ongoing consideration in WTO on a COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights waiver and the use of flexibilities of the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement," a joint statement said.
It said the ministers recognised the role of extensive immunisation against COVID-19 as a global public good for health in preventing, containing, and stopping transmission to bring the pandemic to an end and foster a rapid, inclusive and resilient recovery.
The statement said the ministers stressed the need to promote initiatives aimed at ensuring timely, affordable, and equitable access to vaccines as well as of diagnostics, therapeutics and medicines.
"They also reiterated the need for sharing of vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities and supply chains for medical products, promotion of price transparency and called for the exercise of due restraint in the implementation of measures that could hinder the flow of vaccines, health products and essential inputs," it said.
They also called for timely establishment and effective operationalisation of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre.
They noted that the pandemic has posed many challenges for economic and financial stability.
The ministers also welcomed the announcement of the Gaza ceasefire beginning and stressed the urgency of the restoration of calm.
"The ministers reiterated their support for a two-state solution resulting in comprehensive peace based on the vision of a region where Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace within secure and recognised borders," said a media statement.
Referring to Afghanistan, the ministers stressed that a stable, democratic, inclusive, independent, sovereign and peaceful Afghanistan is crucial for the progress of the region.
"They reiterated their commitment towards an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and an important role of the UN in peace-making and peacebuilding in Afghanistan," the statement said.
"They welcomed all international efforts aimed at establishing sustainable peace in Afghanistan. They strongly condemned the continuing violence in Afghanistan, especially deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist groups," it said.
On the situation in Myanmar, the ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of that country.
"They voiced support to the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) initiative and the implementation of its five-point consensus on Myanmar. They called on all sides to refrain from violence," the statement said.
Myanmar has been witnessing street protests since the military seized control of the country in a coup on February 1 after detaining Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of her National League for Democracy.