BRUSSELS, June 20 - The European Union’s top diplomat said on Monday he has written to all African foreign ministers to explain that the bloc’s sanctions on Russia are not responsible for the looming global food crisis and pledged to work out ways for exports of food and fertilizers to reach their continent.
The EU has not banned exports of Russian food or fertilizers to non-EU nations as part of its sanctions package, The Associated Press reported.
Earlier this month, the chairman of the African Union, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the fighting in Ukraine and Western sanctions had worsened food shortages, and appealed to other countries to ensure grain and fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine aren’t blocked.
Russia is blockading Ukrainian exports,” Josep Borrell said after a meeting of EU Foreign Affairs ministers. “Not us. Russia is destroying ports, and destroying food stocks, destroying transport infrastructure.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke on Monday via video link at a meeting of the African Union Assembly, said the war has restricted Ukrainian exports to the African the continent.
Rising catastrophic food prices have already brought it (war) home to millions of African families. Just like in many families in Asia, Europe, Latin America. On all continents, the unfair level of food prices provoked by the Russian war is painfully felt. But it is for your countries that, unfortunately, this can become a particular problem," Zelensky said.
The crisis began precisely on February 24, when the Russian fleet blocked the Ukrainian ports on the Black and Azov Seas,” he said.
And if it were not for the Russian war against Ukraine, there simply would not be a shortage in the food market. If not for the Russian war, our farmers and agricultural companies would have been able to provide a record harvest this year. If not for the Russian war, people in Africa, Asia, and anywhere in the world would not suffer catastrophic food price increases. There simply would not have been such a catastrophic rise in prices," Zelensky said.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has been preventing some 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain from getting to the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia.
Borrell said it is “a deliberate attempt (by Russia) to create hunger in the world,” adding that the Kremlin’s attempt to blame Western sanctions for the crisis was just “propaganda.”
Meanwhile, Sall also complained that the collateral effects of the EU decision to expel many Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system will hurt African countries’ ability to make payments for food imports.
Borrell said he understands the concerns of African leaders about the consequences of EU sanctions.
If there is a problem, we will solve it,” he said. “But I have to know the problem. Not the whole financial system of Russia is de-Swifted.” (ap/ez)