UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on Russia to free Ukrainian grain exports and on the West to open access for Russian fertilizers to world markets, so that they can effectively tackle the global food crisis.
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"Russia must allow the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports," he told a ministerial meeting hosted by the United States in New York. “Alternative transport routes” to the maritime exit of these cereals, in particular filling silos in Odessa, “can be explored – even if we know that this will not be enough to solve the problem”, he added.
At the same time, "Russian food and fertilizers must have full and unrestricted access to world markets," the UN chief demanded.
These fertilizers are not subject to Western sanctions decided against Moscow after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, but their purchase by foreign countries may be blocked by measures taken against the Russian financial system, according to diplomats.
Antonio Guterres has been negotiating on these two subjects for several weeks with Russia, Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and Turkey, which can help with mine clearance near Ukrainian ports and guarantee the movement of ships.
“I'm hopeful, but there's still a long way to go. The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill from all parties,” he said, declining to say more so as not to jeopardize the chances of a deal.
According to him, "there is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating into world markets, despite the war, the food production of Ukraine, as well as the food and fertilizers produced by Russia and Belarus. ".
Warning of the "specter of global food shortages in the months to come", Antonio Guterres stressed that "if we don't feed people, we fuel conflicts".
He said the war in Ukraine has amplified and accelerated factors contributing to the global food crisis: climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and growing inequalities between rich and poor countries.
The crisis “threatens to tip tens of millions of people into food insecurity, malnutrition, famine” and “could last for years”, he warned. “In just two years, the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity has doubled, from 135 million before the pandemic to 276 million today,” recalled the UN chief.