US’ Blinken tells Russia to stop using Black Sea grain deal as 'blackmail'

US’ Blinken tells Russia to stop using Black Sea grain deal as 'blackmail'

Antony Blinken praises Türkiye's efforts to reinstate deal, urges others to do same

By Betul Yuruk

UNITED NATIONS (AA) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russia on Thursday to not use the Black Sea grain deal as “blackmail.”

''Every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow enough. Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail. Enough, treating the world's most vulnerable people as leverage, enough of this unjustified unconscionable war,'' Blinken told the UN Security Council as he chaired a meeting against using hunger as a weapon.

“We also very much appreciate Türkiye and others working to reinstate the grain deal,” he said.

Blinken said grain prices have risen by more than 8% around the world since Russia pulled out of the arrangement on July 17, ignoring the world's appeals.

It suspended the grain deal saying parts related to its demands have “not been implemented so far,” referring to the removal of obstacles to its fertilizer exports and the inclusion of state-owned Russian Agricultural Bank in the SWIFT international payment system.

The agreement was signed in Istanbul in July 2022 by Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye, and the UN, creating a safe corridor through the Black Sea for exports from three Ukrainian ports since the war began in February of that year.

It helped rein in spiraling prices and ease a global food crisis by restoring the flow of wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer and other products from Ukraine -- one of the world’s largest grain exporters.

Blinken said conflict is the largest driver of food insecurity, with violence and unrest pushing 117 million people into extreme deprivation last year.

He urged nations to support a new joint communique, which he said was already signed by nearly 90 countries, to end the use of famine, starvation and food as weapons of war.

''Hunger must not be weaponized,'' he said.

UN Famine Prevention and Response Coordinator Reena Ghelani said the number of people suffering from acute food insecurity reached a record of a quarter of a billion last year.

''It is a man-made crisis that has been swelling for years. We are now at the tipping point,'' she said.

David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee said starvation is a political problem.

''The world is four times richer, but there is more famine. That is not fate. It is a choice and it is a choice that will only be changed by action,'' he said.

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