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  25 Jun 2022, 10:06

Ministers slam Russia's 'grain war' at Berlin food summit

  BERLIN, June 25, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Germany accused Russia of taking the world hostage with its "grain war" on Friday as Berlin hosted a conference to address concerns the Ukraine conflict could cause hunger in some countries.
 
   Held under the banner "Uniting for Global Food Security", the meeting brought together foreign, agriculture and development ministers from 40 countries ahead of a G7 leaders summit in Bavaria starting on Sunday.
 
   With stalled grain deliveries from Ukraine leaving many countries fearing food shortages, the conference was attended by G7 ministers as well as hard-hit nations like Nigeria, Tunisia and Indonesia.
 
   Moscow is "deliberately causing food prices to explode ... in order to destabilise entire countries", Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the meeting, accusing Russia of waging a "cynical grain war".
 
   At a news briefing ahead of the conference, Baerbock had accused Russia of using hunger "quite deliberately as a weapon of war" and "taking the whole world hostage".
 
   As a result of Russia's invasion of top agricultural exporter Ukraine, grain deliveries across the Black Sea have been stalled by minefields and a Russian military blockade of Ukrainian ports.
 
   The crisis has seen food prices soar and contributed to the global spike in inflation.
 
   The United Nations has warned that it is currently affecting poorer African countries the most because of their heavy dependence on Russian and Ukrainian wheat.
 
   United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the conference the world was facing "an unprecedented global hunger crisis".
 
   "There can be no effective solution to the global food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine's food production as well as the food and fertiliser produced by Russia into world markets," he said.
 
   Moscow denies blocking the passage of cargo vessels and blames Western sanctions against Russia for contributing to the food crisis.
 
   - 'Political means' -
 
   But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said "Russia is the only one responsible for the crisis".
 
   "I would like to highlight that in contrast to what Russia says, it is not the sanctions (that) are responsible" for the crisis, he said.
 
   "Food security is a global good that must not be utilised as a tool for political means," he added.
 
   Turkey has been spearheading efforts to resume grain deliveries across the Black Sea and this week agreed to pursue talks on how to solve the crisis after a meeting with Russian officials in Moscow.
 
   The Turkish defence ministry said four-way grain talks between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN could be held in Turkey "in the coming weeks".
 
   In a video message recorded for the summit, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was "in intensive talks... to get exports of Ukrainian agricultural products by sea back on track as quickly as possible" as well as "working on alternative export routes via rail and road".
 
   But South African Agriculture Minister Angela Thokozile Didiza said the main priority should be to end the conflict through diplomacy.
 
   "It has always been clear that cessation of hostilities and persuading those in conflict to come to the table and negotiate" is the best route to peace, she said.
 
   Though the meeting was not billed as a donor conference, Britain on Thursday evening pledged an additional 372 million pounds ($456 million) in aid for the countries worst affected by rising global food prices.
 
   The package includes 130 million pounds for the World Food Programme this financial year, the government said in a statement.
 

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