There is no silver bullet to solve the complex challenge, and authorities are considering various options for safe food exports by rail, sea and air, two U.S. diplomats and four European diplomats. Told CNN. Possible scenarios are being investigated and devised, with or without Russia agreeing.
According to diplomats, this issue will be a major focus when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken convenes a ministerial meeting on food security and chairs discussions on this issue at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday and Thursday. Let’s go.
“This is far from a deal. There are so many touching parts that many things can go wrong in these discussions,” said another person familiar with the discussion.
With concerns about global food shortages, prices of wheat, grains, corn, soybeans and vegetable oils have skyrocketed in recent weeks due to the Russian invasion, raising the urgency of efforts. However, there is no sign of giving up on war, so there is no easy solution that will cause major obstacles to all means of transportation.
Time is important. Ukraine will run out of agricultural storage in the next two months, a World Food Program official said. If there is no movement in the coming months, Ukrainian farmers will have no place to store their crops next season and they will not be well paid to maintain their business.
Before the war, wheat supply from Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost 30% of world trade, according to the US State Department, Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest corn exporter and fifth-largest wheat exporter. The United Nations World Food Program, which helps combat global food insecurity, buys about half of the wheat from Ukraine each year and warns of the disastrous consequences of not opening a port in Ukraine.
Grains used as “tools for hybrid warfare”
This issue has been an important focus at both the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Germany over the weekend and the US-EU Trade Technology Council in France.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday after the G7 meeting, “We must not be naive. Russia is now expanding its war with Ukraine into many states as a grain war.” .. “It’s not collateral damage, it’s a hybrid warfare tool aimed at weakening Russia’s cohesion to war.”
In a joint statement released after the meeting, the G7 Foreign Minister said, “Food, energy, resources, and all the relevance aimed at ensuring the availability and accessibility of basic commodities for all. We are determined to provide and support additional resources for our efforts. ” “” The Foreign Minister also called on Russia to “immediately stop attacks on Ukraine’s major transportation infrastructure” in order to enable exports of agricultural products.
“Currently, discussions are underway on how to unblock these corridors. We know that there are mines in the Black Sea. Russians are blocking Ukrainian ships from entering and exiting. Is what the secretary does. The general talked with the Russians. That’s what we talk with the Ukrainians. How can we work to bring some of the products available to Ukraine to the market? “Is it?” On Monday, Ukraine explained that it was once a “bread basket for the developing world.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres discussed the issue last month when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but there was no breakthrough. Some US and European diplomats want the United Nations to play a more active role, but organizations are hesitant because of ongoing combat, US and European diplomats said. ..
The most efficient way to transport grain is to ship it, but the blockade of Russia is a big challenge. The sea route is still under consideration, according to sources, probably using a neutral UN-marked boat. However, diplomats are concerned about how practical it is to test such ideas in aggressive Russia.
“The Black Sea isn’t completely eliminated, but it’s quite complicated,” he added, adding that Guterres is actively involved in the preliminary discussions on unloading goods by ship.
Using a freighter is the least likely of the three options, officials added. This is due to the danger in the air and its relatively small capacity compared to trains and ships.
Russia has succeeded in blocking Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov, but Ukraine continues to control the Black Sea coastline and the port of Odesa, a major maritime export hub. Still, due to the Russian invasion, the ship is not currently leaving Odesa. The voyage is dangerous because Russia is also attacking the port with missiles and the Russian and Ukrainian mines are in the sea.
Turkey, a key player in the Black Sea and controlling access to the Black Sea, said it was involved in discussions with Russians on this initiative, different from U.S. officials familiar with the ongoing conversation. Sources said.
“There is a diplomatic band in putting pressure on Russia to encourage a safe corridor, which is where the United Nations is more focused,” said a European diplomat.
Diplomats have told CNN that transporting grain by rail is one solution, given that it is currently the safest way to transport large quantities of grain. There are also discussions between Ukraine and the European Union on transporting goods to Romania, Slovakia and Poland by rail. However, the efforts are complicated by the differences in the railway systems used in Ukraine and neighboring countries.
Russia is disrupting agricultural production, Ukraine says
$ 40 billion in supplementary aid to Ukraine, which has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives but is waiting to be passed by the U.S. Senate, includes more than $ 5 billion to address the global food instability caused by the war. It contains. Most of that funding goes “to provide emergency food aid to people around the world who suffer from hunger as a result of conflicts in Ukraine and other urgent humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian population and communities.” Will be sent to. In summary from the House Expenditure Committee.
“The fastest and most sustainable way to global food security is to unblock Ukrainian ports,” said Daria Kareniuk, a leader in Ukrainian civil society. Called on the international community to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to help.
“Ukraine needs anti-ship missiles to thwart Russian warships and needs the intervention of the United Nations and other countries to regain control of the high seas,” she said with a reporter from the German Marshall Foundation in Washington. Said at the round table meeting. last week.