Leaders attending the Russia-Africa summit asked President Vladimir Putin on Friday to accept their peace plan for Ukraine and restore the Black Sea grain export agreement.
“This war must end. And it can only end on the basis of justice and reason,” African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat told Putin and African leaders in St Petersburg.
“The disruptions of energy and grain supplies must end immediately. The grain deal must be extended for the benefit of all the peoples of the world, Africans in particular.”
The summit comes as both Russia and the West vie for influence in the African continent, which makes up the largest voting bloc in the United Nations.
The bloc has been more divided than any other on resolutions critical of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Putin tried to present the summit as a show of African support for his country, praising the continent’s role in the emerging “multipolar world order.”
“The era of hegemony of one or several countries is receding into the past, albeit not without resistance on the part of those who got used to their own uniqueness and monopoly in global affairs,” he was quoted as saying.
Of Africa’s 54 countries, only 17 heads of state were at the summit, compared to 43 at the first summit in 2019.
What is the African peace initiative?
African leaders presented their plan for peace to Putin last month. It comprised several steps to diffuse the conflict.
It included a Russian pullout of Ukraine, the removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, the suspension of the International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Putin, and the relief of Western sanctions against Russia.
Russia-Africa Summit kicks off in St. Petersburg
On Friday, Putin said Moscow was analyzing a peace proposal.
“This is an acute issue, and we aren’t evading its consideration,” the Russian leader said.
Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso said the African initiative “deserves the closest attention, it mustn’t be underestimated.”
“We once again urgently call for the restoration of peace in Europe,” he added.
Calls for reviving the grain deal
African leaders and representatives also called for a revival of a UN-backed grain deal which allowed the shipment of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea despite the fighting.
The deal, which expired after one year last week, was abandoned by Moscow, as it refused to renew it, saying its own exports were being held up.
Speaking on Friday, Putin renewed his pledge to steadily supply Africa with grain and other agricultural products.
During the summit’s opening on Thursday, Moscow pledged 25,000 to 50,000 tons of Russian grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea and Central African Republic each in the next three to four months.
Under the now halted grain deal, the UN World Food Program shipped 725,000 tons of grain to several countries, including Somalia.
Kenyans suffer as Russia pulls out of Ukraine grain deal
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to Putin’s grain pledge, stressing that grain donations cannot compensate for the deal.
“The disruptions of energy and grain supplies must end immediately,” African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said in St Petersburg. “The grain deal must be extended for the benefit of all the peoples of the world, Africans in particular.”
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose country is a major grain importer, also reiterated calls for reviving the deal.
Meanwhile, Moscow announced signing military cooperation agreements with over 40 African countries “to strengthen the defense capabilities” of the continent. Putin said the African states received a wide range of weapons and technology, some of which “on a gratuitous basis.”