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G-7 warns of global food crisis if Russia doesn’t unblock Ukrainian grain

WEISSENHAUS, Germany (AP) — Major Group of Seven economies warned Saturday that the war in Ukraine is fueling a global food and fuel crisis that threatens poor countries, and that urgent action is needed to unlock grain reserves that the Russia prevents leaving Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a “global crisis”.

Baerbock said up to 50 million people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, will face hunger in the coming months unless ways are found to release Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a share important part of the global supply.

In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, the G-7 pledged to provide additional humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.

“Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most serious food and energy crises in recent history, which now threatens the most vulnerable people around the world,” the group said.

“We are determined to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to safeguard global food security and to support our most vulnerable partners in this regard,” he added.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said her country, another major agricultural exporter, is ready to send ships to European ports so that Ukrainian grain can get to those who need it.

“We have to make sure that this grain gets sent around the world,” she told reporters. “Otherwise, millions of people will face starvation.”

The G-7 countries have also called on China not to help Russia, including by undermining international sanctions or justifying Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Beijing should support Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, not “help Russia in its war of aggression”, they said.

The G-7 urged China “to refrain from engaging in manipulation of information, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

The group, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, also reiterated its position that territories seized by Russian forces must be returned to Ukraine.

“We will never recognize the borders that Russia has tried to alter through military aggression,” they said.

The meeting in Weissenhaus, northeast of Hamburg, was touted as an opportunity for officials to discuss the wider implications of the war for geopolitics, energy and food security, and ongoing international efforts to combat against climate change and the pandemic.

In a series of closing statements, the G-7 countries also addressed a wide range of global issues, from the situation in Afghanistan to tensions in the Middle East.

On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on friendly countries to provide more military support to kyiv and increase pressure on Russia, including seizing its assets abroad to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Kuleba said his country remained willing to discuss with Russia the release of grain supplies stuck in Ukrainian silos and also the conclusion of a political agreement to end the war itself, but had not until now received “no positive reaction” from Moscow.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published on Saturday that he had not detected any change in Putin’s position recently.

Scholz, who spoke at length by phone with the Russian leader on Friday, told German news portal t-online that Putin had failed to achieve the military goals he set himself at the start of the war while losing more Russian soldiers than the Soviet Union during its decade-long campaign in Afghanistan.

“Putin should slowly start to understand that the only way out of this situation is through an agreement with Ukraine,” Scholz said.

One idea discussed at the G-7 meeting was whether frozen Russian state assets abroad could be used to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

“Russia bears responsibility for the massive damage resulting from this war,” Baerbock said. “And that’s why it’s a matter of justice that Russia should pay for this damage.”

But she added that, unlike in Canada – where legislation allows seized funds to be reallocated – the legal basis for doing so in Germany is uncertain.

“But that’s precisely what these meetings are for, to discuss how to resolve these legal issues,” Baerbock said.

Many foreign ministers were due to attend an informal meeting of NATO diplomats in Berlin on Saturday and Sunday.

The meeting will discuss steps taken by Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance amid concerns about the threat from Russia, as well as ways in which NATO can support Ukraine without being drawn into the conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was unable to attend the G-7 meeting after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, was expected at the NATO gathering.

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