Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© Getty Images / Mert Gokhan Koc; dia imagesRussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
The BRICS group of nations has voted to temporarily suspend new membership applications and focus on integrating the countries which have joined most recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Wednesday.

In a statement published on the ministry's website, Lavrov revealed that the Group of Ten BRICS members had decided to "take a break with the accession of new members in order to process the new arrivals, who have doubled the composition of the group."

BRICS was initially founded in 2006 by Brazil, Russia, India, and China, with South Africa joining the group in 2010. This year, five more countries officially joined the organization, including Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates.

In his statement, Lavrov said that while the new arrivals are being integrated into the group, a new category of "partner countries" would be formed as a "stepping stone" to full BRICS membership.

"We will certainly promote our Belarusian friends as well as a number of other like-minded allies," the minister said.

This year, Russia holds the rotating chairmanship of BRICS and has announced a "special mission" to identify new members. According to Yury Ushakov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy aide, more than 30 countries have formally applied, including Thailand and Malaysia, the latest to have submitted bids. Earlier this month, Zimbabwe also announced a desire to join the group.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov outlined that Moscow's primary criteria for all aspiring BRICS members is "non-participation in illegal sanctions policies, [and] illegal restrictive measures against any BRICS participant, first of all of course against Russia."

He said that all current members had expressed their "full understanding" of that position, which Moscow considers essential as the group's growth continues.