African leaders discuss sensitive issue of paying Russia for fertilizers at talks in Kiev and Moscow

The goal of the delegation of six African leaders preparing to negotiate with Kiev and Moscow is to “start the peace process”, but at the same time, they are also raising the delicate question of how to pay the heavily sanctioned Russia for the fertilizer exports that Africa desperately needs. who helped mediate the negotiations, he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Jean-Yves Ollivier, an international negotiator who has been working for six months to bring the talks together, said African leaders would also discuss the issue of easing more grain shipments from Ukraine amid the war and creating more grain shipments. prisoner exchanges when they travel to both countries, which have been described as peace missions.

The talks are likely to take place next month, Ollivier said.

He arrived in Moscow on Sunday and is also on his way to Kiev, where he will meet with high-level officials to work out the “logistical conditions” for the upcoming talks. For one thing, the six African presidents will likely have to travel to Kiev by overnight train from Poland amid the fighting, he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to receive separately the delegations of the presidents of South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zambia.

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The talks have been approved by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the African Union and China, Ollivier said in a video call with the AP on Friday.

However, in war, neither side is ready to stop fighting.

The talks were announced last week by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, just as Russia launched a fierce airstrike against Kiev. On Sunday, Russia claimed to have captured the key city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine after heavy fighting, a claim denied by Ukraine.

“We are not dreamers,” Ollivier said of the chances of African leaders making an immediate breakthrough in ending the 15-month-old conflict. “Unless something happens, I don’t think we’re going to finish the first mission with a ceasefire.”

The goal was a start, said Ollivier, a 78-year-old Frenchman who in the late 1980s brought the opposing sides together in the high-stakes negotiations that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

“It starts with signs. It starts with a dialogue. And that’s what we’re going to try,” Ollivier said. “There’s no guarantee that we’ll succeed, but for now Russia and Ukraine have accepted… a delegation that will come specifically to their countries to talk about it. peace.”

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Africa’s key starting point is grain and fertilizer.

The war severely limited exports of grain from Ukraine and fertilizer from Russia, exacerbating global food insecurity and starvation. Africa was one of the hardest hit continents. Last week, Russia agreed to a two-month extension of a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations that allows Ukraine to ship grain to the world via the Black Sea, and the six African presidents want it extended further.

But they also need to find ways to make it easier for African nations to receive shipments and pay for fertilizers to Russia, Ollivier said. Russian fertilizer is not subject to international sanctions, but the United States and some Western countries are targeting Russian cargo ships with sanctions. Russia’s access to the SWIFT global financial transaction system has also been restricted by sanctions, making it difficult for African nations to order and pay for critical fertilizers.

“We will need a window through which SWIFT will be entitled to this particular point,” Ollivier said. “That will be on the table, and we hope that in this case we will get the support of the Russians for Ukrainian grain and the support of the Ukrainians to find payment and delivery of Russian fertilizer.”

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The African mission is not the only mediation effort. China offered its own peace proposal in February, and a Chinese envoy held talks with Ukrainian officials. But China’s plan has been largely rejected by Ukraine’s Western allies and is clouded by Beijing’s political support for Moscow.

Ukraine and Russia are far apart on any agreement that could form the basis of a peace deal.

According to Ollivier, the African delegation remained broadly supportive after China also “approached us and offered support” on the grounds that it would be a “parallel effort” with Beijing’s plan.

“The negotiation (with Moscow and Kiev) is getting more support, more weight,” said Ollivier, founding president of the London-based Brazzaville Foundation, a conflict resolution organization. “If one side says no, they consider who they say no to. Do they say no only to Jean-Yves Ollivier? To the Brazzaville Foundation? To the six (African) heads of state?

“Or they say no to the UN, the Chinese or the Americans. To the British? To the European Union?”


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