(LONDON) — The five-nation BRICS group announced expansion of members on Thursday, having invited six countries to join the bloc.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is hosting the group’s summit in Johannesburg, said that Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates would begin their membership in January.

“This membership expansion is historic,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping said. “It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and development.”

This expansion was a central topic of discussion during the three-day summit, although Ramaphosa said the idea had been worked on for over a year.

Mohammad Jamshidi, Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs to Iran, commented on social media. “In a historic move, Islamic Republic of Iran becomes a permanent member of BRICS, a strategic victory for Iran’s foreign policy.”

United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed the announcement to include his nation in “this 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,” Mohammed said in a post.

“We look forward to cooperating and coordinating with the member states and with other countries invited to join the bloc, to achieve its goals of strengthening economic cooperation among us, and raise the voice of the Global South regarding the issues and development challenges we encounter,” Egyptian President El-Sisi said, according to Egypt Today.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hailed what he called “a great moment” for his country.

Alberto Fernández, President of Argentina, called this “a new step in the consolidation of brotherhood and openness to the world that we always dreamed of.”

While Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa all publicly expressed support for expansion, there was division among the leaders over how many countries could join and how quickly it would happen.

The last time the BRICS expanded was in 2010, when South Africa joined, adding an “S” to the acronym, one year after the creation of the block. Currently, it represents around 40% of the world’s population and more than a quarter of global GDP.

The expansion signifies an important move in the attempt to reshape the global order into a multipolar world, with voices from the Global South at the center of the international agenda.

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