International creditors must relieve African countries of debt payments this year to help them deal with the coronavirus pandemic, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a wide-ranging interview with RFI on Wednesday in which he also urged Russia to get behind UN calls for a global ceasefire.
A moratorium on African countries’ debt payments is “an indispensable step” to help the continent weather the coronavirus crisis, the French president told Radio France Internationale (RFI), FRANCE 24’s sister station, calling for the debt to be eventually written off.
“We must give African economies some breathing space by suspending debt payments during this crisis,” Macron explained, describing the moratorium as a “global first”.
The French president’s comments come as his finance minister says major international creditors have reached a preliminary agreement to relieve the world’s poorest countries of debt payments this year.
Macron urged finance officials for the US, China and other G20 nations to finalise that agreement when they meet online on Wednesday.
1/5 @EmmanuelMacron says he’ll press for a debt freeze at Wednesday’s #G20 Finance meeting. “It has to be a first step” the French president told @RFI. “Every year, one-third of what Africa exports goes to servicing its debt,” he said, adding that debt cancellation should follow.
In his interview, the French leader said he had secured the agreement of three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to back a call by the UN for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on the coronavirus pandemic.
The UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the world truce on March 23, warning that in war-torn countries, health systems have collapsed and the small number of health professionals left were often targeted in the fighting.
Macron said President Xi Jinping of China, US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had all confirmed to him they would back the plea.
The French leader said he was hopeful of securing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agreement in the coming hours.
“I spoke to him at the start of this initiative. I haven’t spoken to him since I got the firm confirmations of the other leaders. I will do in the next few hours,” Macron told RFI.
“I think that for sure President Putin will agree and the day he says he does, we’ll be able to hold this video conference and relay this call in a solemn, forceful and efficient way.”
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)