Senegalese Head of State Macky Sall, the current chairman of the African Union, called on Thursday for the demining of the Ukrainian port of Odessa to allow grain exports and said he had received assurances from President Vladimir Putin that the Russia would not attack.
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Without the resumption of exports, Africa, very dependent on imports of Ukrainian and Russian cereals but also of essential fertilizers for its not very productive agriculture, "will be in a situation of very serious famine which could destabilize the continent", he said. he says in an interview with French media France 24 and RFI.
"If the fertilizers don't arrive when it's the winter season (the rainy season) in most African countries, that means there will be no harvest," he said. .
Mr. Sall, received last week by Mr. Putin, came out "reassured" from these talks in his words, said he remained "optimistic" despite the lack of progress made since then for a passage of the cargoes.
“Until proof to the contrary, I have no element enabling me to contradict” Moscow's assurances that Russia would not oppose the export of Ukrainian wheat through Odessa if the waters were cleared.
"I even told him: 'the Ukrainians say that if they demin, you return to the port.' He says (that), no, he's not going to come back, and that's a commitment he made," he said of President Putin.
"Now we have to work to get the mines cleared, get the UN involved - and all the stakeholders - so that we can start getting the Ukrainian wheat out," he said.
Mr. Sall will meet his counterpart Emmanuel Macron in France on Friday. He will ask him to lift European sanctions against Russia, in particular the exclusion of Russian banks from the Swift system, secure messaging and an essential cog in international fund transfers, he said.
"From the moment our banks are linked to European banks for the most part, they cannot pay (Russian products) as they traditionally did," he explained.
Senegal, with strong relations with Western countries, surprised on March 2 by abstaining from a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution demanding "that Russia immediately cease the use of force against Ukraine".
Mr. Sall has denied being the “accomplice” of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
“What would make me an accomplice? To have been in Russia or to have spoken” to Mr. Putin?, he asked. He refuted an “alignment in favor of Russia”.