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Food Security At Risk As Russia And Ukraine Seek Alternatives To Grain Deal

  • Russia announced its decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea grain deal, which previously ensured the safe transport of more than 33 million metric tons of grain from Ukrainian ports to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
  • The move creates uncertainty for seaborne grain exports and port security, prompting both countries to discuss potential alternatives.
  • Ukrainian President Zelenskiy advocated for the continuation of the deal without Russia, while Kremlin warned of security risks involved with such a plan due to the proximity of the grain corridor to the war zone in Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russia both said they were seeking alternative ways to keep grain supplies flowing after an agreement that allowed exports to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia collapsed when Moscow refused to renew its participation in the deal as it expired on July 18.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, on ways to supply "the neediest countries," the ministry in Moscow said in a statement, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy chaired a government meeting in Kyiv where the "No. 1 issue was seaborne grain exports and port security."

Neither side gave details on any options being discussed.

Moscow announced late on July 17 it was suspending its participation in the accord, which ensured the safe passing of exports totaling more than 33 million metric tons of grain from Ukrainian ports despite the war between Russia and Ukraine -- two of the world's largest producers.

The supplies helped address a global food emergency and tamp down rampant inflation that accelerated worldwide after the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia said that while Ukrainian exports were flowing, the terms of a parallel deal to help move its grain and fertilizers were not being met.

Zelenskiy has called for the continued operation of the Black Sea grain export deal without Russia's participation, saying he has agreed with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to work with "responsible states to restore food security and food supply via the Black Sea routes."

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on July 18 that attempts to continue the grain deal without Moscow’s participation will lead to risks given the grain corridor's close proximity to the war zone in Ukraine.

"Certain risks appear there without relevant security guarantees. Therefore, if anything is formalized without Russia, these risks should be addressed. We cannot say in this regard to what extent and what countries are ready to assume such risks," Peskov said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said that in "practical terms" exiting the deal means "revoking navigation safety guarantees, reinstating temporarily dangerous area status in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, phasing out the maritime humanitarian corridor within the agreement's area, and dissolving the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped mediate the original agreement along with the United Nations, said officials were talking with Russia and that he hoped the deal would be extended, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed deep disappointment over Russia's withdrawal from the deal, which he said had been "a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world."

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