PARIS (Reuters) – French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday that the option to exclude Russia from the international SWIFT system for interbank payments remains open, but he sees it only as a last resort.
The United States and the European Union have chosen not to exclude Russia from the SWIFT system as sanctions are tightened over the invasion of Ukraine. However, US President Joe Biden said Thursday that they could raise the issue again.
“It’s the last resort, Swift, but it’s one of the options left on the table,” Le Maire told reporters before a meeting in Paris with his eurozone counterparts.
Ahead of the meeting itself, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said “all options are on the table” in addition to those already agreed.
“The first sanctions that were imposed on Russia are harming the Russian people and will seriously harm the Russian economy,” he said.
Finance ministers are likely to discuss the consequences of the conflict and sanctions for the European economy. Economists say it could increase inflationary pressures and slow economic growth.
Monetary policy makers from the European Central Bank also met Thursday in Paris. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde will hold a press conference on Friday.
The European Union agreed on Thursday to freeze Russian assets in the bloc and halt its banks’ access to European financial markets as part of what EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called a “sanction package”.
The sanctions will also target Russia’s energy and transportation sectors, among other things, and seek to stifle trade and manufacturing with export controls.
On Friday, the United Kingdom reiterated its request that Russia be excluded from the SWIFT system. Many capitals are hesitant about this measure because although it will greatly affect Russian banks, it will also make it difficult for creditors to recover their money.
Observers also noted that it may complicate payments to Russia from countries that import Russian energy.
(Reporting by Sudeep Kar-Gupta, Lee Thomas, Christian Kramer and Bart Meijer; writing by Mark John; Editing by Catherine Evans; Translated by Thomas Cobos)
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