US, EU unlikely to cut SWIFT to Russia just yet – Biden

European Union flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

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WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS, Feb 24 (Reuters) – The United States and the European Union have chosen not to cut Russia off from the global interbank payments system SWIFT as part of their sanctions against Moscow for invading Ukraine, but could come back to this question, said the American president. Joe Biden said Thursday.

When asked why this step was not taken, Biden told reporters that the sanctions imposed on Russian banks exceeded the impact of Russia’s separation from SWIFT, and that other countries had no failed to agree on the additional measure at this stage.

“It’s always an option,” Biden said. “But at the moment that’s not the position the rest of Europe wants to take.”

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Several EU sources had told Reuters ahead of the sanctions announcement that the EU was unlikely to accept the move, despite calls from various quarters to do so. Read more

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany – a key trading partner for Russia – opposed banning Russia’s access to the payments system at this stage, but also suggested that such measurement could still follow at a later stage.

“It’s very important that we accept the measures that have been prepared – and save everything else for a situation where it might be necessary to go beyond that,” Scholz told reporters, responding to a question about SWIFT. , as he arrived at an emergency. summit scheduled to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Read more

Foreign ministers of the Baltic states, once governed from Moscow but now members of NATO and the EU, called on Thursday to block Russia’s access to SWIFT.

Other EU member states are hesitant to take such a step because, although it would hit Russian banks hard, it would be difficult for European creditors to get their money back, and Russia has a system in place anyway. alternative payment.

“Urgency and consensus is the top priority at the moment,” an EU diplomat said, adding that at this stage that meant there was no movement on SWIFT as it would have such far-reaching consequences, also in Europe.

Another EU diplomat said: “I am not aware of an agreement (on SWIFT sanctions) at this stage.”

Data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) shows that European lenders hold the lion’s share of the nearly $30 billion in foreign bank exposure to Russia.

Based in Belgium, SWIFT, a messaging network widely used by banks to send and receive money transfer orders or information, is overseen by central banks in the United States, Japan and Europe.

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Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Gabriela Baczynska, John Chalmers, Robin Emmot in Brussels and Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal and Nandita Bose in Washington; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by John Chalmers and Marguerita Choy

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