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G7 foreign ministers blame Russia for worsening global hunger crisis

BERLIN: The foreign ministers of the G7, the world’s leading industrial nations, have blamed Russia for worsening the global hunger crisis and called on Moscow to un-block the Ukrainian Black Sea ports for food exports.

“All G7 sanctions include exemptions to allow Russian food and agricultural products to get to global markets,” the ministers said in a statement issued by the German Foreign office on Friday, rejecting Russia‘s “false narrative and disinformation on sanctions.”

Russia‘s continued war on Ukraine is exacerbating food insecurity, “including by blocking the Black Sea, bombing grain silos and ports, and damaging Ukraine‘s agricultural infrastructure,” the statement said.

The foreign ministers met at a conference on food security in Berlin ahead of the G7 summit at southern Germany‘s Elmau castle on June 26-28.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had earlier called on the international community to increase its efforts in the fight against the worsening hunger crisis in many parts of the world.

Speaking at the conference, she said that “more than €44 billion ($46.4 billion) will be needed this year, of which only half has been accounted for so far.”

Baerbock said that the situation is drastic, with 345 million people at risk of suffering from food scarcity.

“It is a hunger crisis that is looming over us like a life-threatening wave,” she said.

The reasons were partly to do with climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, she said, “but only with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did the wave become a tsunami.”

Baerbock accused Russia of using hunger “as a weapon” and “taking the whole world hostage.”

German Development Minister Svenja Schulze and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir were also present at the conference, along with around 50 delegations and roughly 40 ministers. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also made the trip to Berlin to attend.

Schulze said that around 400 million people across the world rely on food from Ukraine. Not only have the deliveries from Ukraine stalled, the higher prices for food and energy on account of the war are hurting many more countries.

“It is always the poorest who suffer the most,” she said. The government will supply a further €4 billion this year to fight hunger, she added.

Schulze also emphasized the importance of avoiding future food shortages with more sustainable practices. Planting more resilient and climate-adapted crops such as millet in developing countries, greater local storage capacities and more regional trade will be necessary, she said.

Özdemir criticized the “multidimensional warfare” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said Russia was trying to defeat Ukraine militarily, wage a war of hunger against the global south, and a war of energy against the European Union.

“That is why today’s message is also: We will not be cowed by Putin,” Özdemir said.

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