Macron pushes Africa debt relief, seeks Putin’s backing for UN truce plea

International creditors must relieve African countries of debt payments this year to help them cope with the coronavirus pandemic, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday in a large interview with RFI, in which he also urged Russia support the UN’s calls for a global ceasefire.

A moratorium on the payment of the debt of the African countries is “an essential step” to help the continent to cross the crisis of the coronaviruses, declared the French president Told Radio France Internationale (RFI), FRANCE 24’s sister radio, requests the definitive cancellation of the debt.

“We need to give African economies a little breath by suspending debt payments during this crisis,” said Macron, describing the moratorium as a “world first”.

The French president’s comments come as his finance minister said major international creditors had reached a preliminary deal to relieve the world’s poorest countries from paying their debts this year.

Macron urged finance officials from the United States, China and other G20 countries to finalize the deal at their online meeting on Wednesday.

In his interview, the French leader said that he had obtained the agreement of three of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to support a UN call for a global ceasefire so that the world can focus on the coronavirus epidemic.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global truce on March 23, warning that in war-torn countries, health systems have collapsed and the small number of remaining health professionals have often targeted in combat.

Macron said Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had all confirmed that he would support the call.

The French leader said he hoped to get Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval in the next few hours.

“I spoke to him at the start of this initiative. I haven’t spoken to him since I got firm confirmations from the other leaders. I will do so in the next few hours,” Macron told RFI.

“I think President Putin will certainly agree and the day he says so, we can hold this video conference and relay this call in a solemn, energetic and effective manner.”