US treasury chief warns against violating Russia sanctions during SA stop of Africa Tour

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By Reuters

  • US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned against violating sanctions placed on Russia.
  • The comments were made in South Africa while Yellen was on a three-country visit to Africa.
  • She was hopeful an agreement would soon be reached in the next Russian oil price cap. 

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she had discussed economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine in every stop on her Africa tour and she was hopeful an agreement on the next Russian oil price cap could be reached soon.

Yellen was wrapping up a three-country visit to Africa that is aimed at deepening US economic ties with the continent and countering China’s long dominance of trade and lending with many African nations.

In comments to reporters during a visit to the South African coal-mining province of Mpumalanga, Yellen said the United States was “in the middle of discussions with all of our partners,” when asked about a European proposal to set a $100 per barrel price cap on premium Russian oil products like diesel and a $45 per barrel cap on discounted products like fuel oil.

“I am encouraged we will be able to come to agreement by February 5,” the date a European Union ban on importing Russian refined products goes into effect, she said.

Yellen said it was early days for a price cap on Russian crude oil that went into effect on December 5 but that she believed it was working.

Yellen said:

We take very seriously the sanctions that we have placed on Russia… And violation of those sanctions by local businesses or by governments, we would respond to it quickly and harshly.

Asked whether a strongly-worded comment from the Chinese embassy in Zambia lowered the prospects for reaching agreement with China on accelerating sovereign debt restructurings, Yellen said her views about the constructive nature of recent talks with China had not changed.

Yellen also got a taste of the challenges most South Africans face on a daily basis with crippling power outages that have plagued the country for well over a decade.

Her delegation had experienced power cuts – known locally as load-shedding – at venues including the hotel where they were staying in Pretoria, and had spent “a good deal of time” discussing energy challenges with South African officials and business leaders, she said.

However, despite the challenges associated with them, she said she had heard real enthusiasm and optimism about the opportunities that US companies saw in South Africa.