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African Union chief urges EU to ease food payments to Russia

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who currently chairs the African Union, on Sunday called on Brussels to provide some scope for African countries to pay for imported cereals and fertilizers from Russia despite EU sanctions excluding Russian banks from international payment systems.

“We want to pay, but it is becoming impossible. So we ask the Europeans for the same mechanism as for gas and oil,” Sall told Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview.

Brussels didn’t impose sanctions on the export of Russian cereals or fertilizers to non-EU countries, but has excluded several Russian banks, including Sberbank, from the international payment mechanism SWIFT. EU rules, however, leave some room for countries to make payments to Russia for other imports such as gas.

Last month, Sall told a meeting of EU leaders that sanctions on Russia’s financial system and difficulties in finding insurers were threatening imports of grains and fertilizers to Africa. After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, he again suggested that Western sanctions contribute to the food crisis.

That problem was also discussed during a bilateral meeting in Paris between Sall and French President Emmanuel Macron last week. Macron then told Sall that disruptions have nothing to do with EU sanctions, according to an Elysée official.

Sall’s call comes as a Russian naval blockade on the Black Sea is holding back more than 20 million tons of grain from the world food supply and the U.N., Brussels and Washington are trying to unlock the situation.

Sall said that Senegal is not dependent on grain imports, but warned that fertilizer shortages will have an impact on local production.

“The destabilization of Africa due to famine is as important as the outcome of the war in Ukraine today,” the African leader warned.

The food crisis will be on the agenda when EU leaders meet on Thursday and Friday in Brussels. Heads of state and government are set to again push back against Moscow’s propaganda and to state that Russia is solely responsible for the current food crisis.

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