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Russia 'weaponizes' food security, US tells UN meeting

DW logo DW 19/05/2022 Farah Bahgat

Washington's top diplomat has called on Russia to lift a blockade on Ukraine's Black Sea ports as the UN Security Council addressed global food insecurity linked to the war in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine are the world's largest wheat exporters © Gudella/YAY Images/IMAGO Russia and Ukraine are the world's largest wheat exporters

The UN Security Council held a meeting Thursday on food insecurity exacerbated by conflict and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain exporters. Russia's blockade of Black Sea ports has triggered a crisis in grain supplies, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he opened the session.

"Russia's unprovoked war of aggression has halted maritime trade in large swathes of the Black Sea. It has made the region unsafe for navigation, trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports as we heard [and] jeopardizing global food supplies," Blinken said.

Thursday's debate aims to "mobilize action to address global food insecurity," according to the US State Department.

'Weaponizing' food?

Blinken referred to a 2018 UN resolution that condemned starvation as a tool of war, saying the situation has worsened since then.

"The Russian Federation's flagrant disregard of this resolution is just the latest example of a government using the hunger of civilians to try to advance its objectives," Blinken said.

Washington's top diplomat also insisted that sanctions against Russia "aren't blocking Black Sea ports, Russia is"

"The decision to weaponize food is Moscow's and Moscow's alone."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has also accused Moscow of blocking Ukraine's grain exports as a weapon of war.

"Russia is leading this war with another terrible and forceful weapon: hunger and deprivation. By blocking Ukrainian ports, by destroying silos, streets and railroads, Russia has launched a grain war, stoking a global food crisis," Baerbock said at a UN meeting a day earlier.

What does Russia say?

According to the Interfax news agency, Russia seems to imply a possibility to open Ukrainian ports for grain exports if Western sanctions on Moscow were lifted.

"If our partners want to reach a solution, then the problems associated with lifting those sanctions placed on Russian exports must also be solved," the agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying.

UN chief: No solution without Russia and Ukraine

On Wednesday, UN Security-General Antonio Guterres said he was in "intense contact" with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the US and the EU in an effort to relieve the crisis.

"There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia and Belarus into world market despite the war," Guterres said.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths on Thursday called on Kyiv and Moscow to resume peace talks.

"We need it done urgently because in Ukraine, the silos are full of the grain from the last harvest and the next harvest is soon approaching," Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

"They need somewhere to put that grain and we need to get their grain into the countries that need it," he said.

"We need those harvests to be planted, and the world needs peace in Ukraine, just as the people of Ukraine deserve it."

Author: Farah Bahgat

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