Nato and Ukraine to discuss Black Sea grain issue at Zelenskyy's request

Council will meet to discuss operation of corridor for grain exports, spokesperson says

Grain is loaded aboard a cargo ship at the Azov Sea Port in Ukraine.AFP
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Nato and Ukraine are to discuss security in the Black Sea next week, particularly the operation of a corridor for grain exports, at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Western alliance said on Saturday.

Nato spokesperson Oanu Lungescu said the Nato-Ukraine Council, set up at this month's alliance summit, would discuss the situation following Russia's withdrawal from the year-old deal overseeing grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

Mr Zelenskyy said he had requested the meeting in a telephone conversation with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Ms Lungescu said the two men discussed Russia's pullout from the deal and its "continued attempts to weaponise food, which are affecting millions of vulnerable people around the world".

The meeting, she said, would take place at the level of ambassadors. The council's inaugural meeting, at Nato's summit in Vilnius, was attended by heads of state or government.

Mr Zelenskyy, in his nightly video address, had said earlier that the council brought cooperation with Nato "to a new, more advanced level, the Nato-Ukraine Council, and this mechanism can have an impact.

"I proposed to Jens that the council be convened without delay for relevant crisis consultations. The meeting will take place in the coming days. We can overcome the security crisis in the Black Sea."

Russia said it had withdrawn from the accord on grounds that Western countries had ignored its demands to ensure Moscow's food and fertiliser exports. Moscow said ships heading to Ukraine's Black Sea ports could be considered military targets.

The United Nations' aid chief told the UN Security Council on Friday that a spike in grain prices since Russia quit the deal "potentially threatens hunger and worse for millions of people."

Updated: July 22, 2023, 8:45 PM