The President of the African Union, the Senegalese Macky Sall, expressed concern on Tuesday about the consequences of European sanctions excluding Russian banks from the international Swift system and called on the Twenty-Seven to act to free the stocks of cereals blocked in Ukraine by the dispute.

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As part of a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow, the EU decided overnight from Monday to Tuesday to deprive the main Russian bank, Sberbank, of access to Swift, a secure messaging platform allowing crucial operations such as funds transfer orders.

“When the Swift system is disrupted, it means that even if the products (to buy) exist, payment becomes complicated, if not impossible. I would like to insist that appropriate solutions be found,” declared Macky Sall to the leaders of the Twenty-Seven meeting at the summit in Brussels.

In a videoconference message, the Senegalese president also asked the Heads of State and Government to do everything “to release the grain stocks available” in Ukraine, but blocked due to the Russian offensive which is organizing a blockade at sea. Black and prohibits access to the port of Odessa.

It is necessary “to ensure transport and access to the market in order to avoid the catastrophic scenario of shortages and generalized price increases”, he pleaded.

“We are seeing how to get the 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat out. It’s not easy,” explained the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, accusing Russia of “using wheat as a weapon of war”.

“Obviously you need an agreement with Russia to use the sea route,” he acknowledged.

Alternative routes by rail and road are being studied, but they will at best allow a third of the wheat stocks to be transported, a European official told AFP.

“This crisis particularly affects our countries because of their strong dependence on Russian and Ukrainian wheat production,” insisted Macky Sall. According to the UN, 282 million people, more than a third of the world’s undernourished people, lived in Africa in 2020.

“Added to this are 46 million Africans at risk of hunger and undernourishment due to the Covid pandemic. The worst may be ahead of us,” he warned, noting that soaring fertilizer prices could cause a “20% to 50%” collapse in cereal yields in Africa this year.

However, “it is important that the EU and the AU speak with one voice, with a message aligned with the fact that the blocking of wheat exports is due to the war in Ukraine and not to European sanctions”, insists a European source.