The EU’s foreign policy chief has written to G20 ministers urging them to help Brussels persuade Vladimir Putin to reopen the main export route for Ukraine grain to countries in Africa and the Middle East.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, Josep Borrell warned that Russia’s decision to walk out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) last month was risking the lives of children and others in war-torn countries and conflict zones.
He urged the international community to speak on the issue “with a clear and unified voice,” adding: “We owe it to the people most in need.”
The pact, an attempt to alleviate the food crisis triggered by a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports, was brokered in July 2022 by the United Nations and Turkey. It had an immediate effect, returning Ukrainian grain to the market and helping to ease the record-high prices reached shortly after the invasion, the high representative of the European Commission said.
So far this year, Ukraine has supplied 80% of the wheat procured by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to support humanitarian operations in the most food-insecure countries such as Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
“With the termination of the BSGI, all this is now at risk,” wrote Borrell, adding that WFP will now have to source its grain elsewhere with higher prices and with a longer lead time.
The two-page letter was addressed to the foreign ministers of the G20 countries. The EU hopes the letter can leverage the influence of those countries that maintain communication channels with the Kremlin, including Turkey, to try to persuade Putin to return to talks.
“If the international community speaks with a clear and unified voice, Russia might reconsider and resume its participation in this vital initiative. I would like, therefore, to ask for your support in urging Russia to return to negotiations, as well as to refrain from targeting Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure.
“The world has a shared interest in responsible stewardship of global food security. We owe it to the people most in need,” he said.
Russian withdrawal from the BSGI was a central issue in a UN security council debate on conflict-driven global food insecurity, chaired by US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who urged universal condemnation of Moscow’s actions.
“Every member of this council, every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow: enough,” Blinken said. “Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail. Enough treating the world’s most vulnerable people as leverage.”
The Russian deputy permanent representative, Dmitry Polyanskiy, repeated Moscow’s claims, not supported by data from international agencies, that only 3% of BSGI exports went to “countries in need”. Polyanskiy also claimed that a parallel agreement to facilitate exports of Russian grain and fertiliser had not been honoured, though Russian grain exports have increased significantly over the past year.
“If all the problems that have been publicly raised by us … are eliminated, we will be ready to once again take part in the Black Sea initiative,” he said, noting that Russia would give “25,000 to 50,000 tonnes” of grains free of charge to six African countries.
The British ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said the Russian donations would “not bring grain prices back down nor help those facing famine in other countries”.
“This inadequate gesture falls far short of solving the global problem that Russia has created,” Woodward said.
David Miliband, the head of the International Rescue Committee, pointed to rising global impunity for those using hunger as a weapon.
“Combatants attack civilians, deny humanitarian aid, and destroy farms and food warehouses. All illegal as well as immoral,” Miliband said. “The solution is that perpetrators should be held to account. We do not need new resolutions, but we need resolution to uphold the existing ones. The next time this council is presented w
Source : The Guardian