Blinken warns Russia to stop 'using Black Sea as blackmail'

'Every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow enough,' US Secretary of State says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves after speaking to the press at the UN. AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the UN Security Council on Thursday to urge Russia to stop using the Black Sea as “blackmail”, following Moscow's recent exit from a deal that allowed for the safe export of Ukrainian grain.

“Every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow enough … Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail,” Mr Blinken told the 15-member council in New York.

“Enough treating the world's most vulnerable people as leverage. Enough of this unjustified unconscionable war.”

Following its exit from the initiative last month, Moscow has stepped up attacks on Ukraine’s key agriculture and port facilities in the Black Sea. Russian drones on Wednesday damaged infrastructure at a Ukrainian port on the Danube.

Mr Blinken, who was heading a high-level meeting on conflict-induced global food insecurity, said grain prices had risen “by more than 8 per cent around the world” since Russia’s withdrawal from the deal.

The termination of the agreement has had a significant impact on the Global South.

In the event of a return to the agreement, Mr Blinken told reporters, Washington would continue to do whatever is necessary to make sure that all food and food products can be exported freely and safely in the Black Sea.

“We want to see that food on world markets we want everyone to benefit from the lower prices,” he said.

Mr Blinken added all possibilities were being explored to optimise the export of grains from Ukraine by land, sea, rail and river, but it would remain challenging to replicate the success achieved through the Black Sea grain deal.

In her address to the Security Council, Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of State, emphasised that averting food insecurity and famine is a purely “political decision”.

“Conflicts such as in Ukraine can contribute to global food insecurity,” she said. “It's knock-on effects in world markets mean that those living far beyond any battlefield often struggle to feed their families, especially in the Middle East and parts of Africa, where countries rely heavily on grain imports.”

She called on parties to armed conflict to “strictly adhere” to their responsibilities.

“There is not only a moral, but a legal duty to uphold these norms,” she said. “No one should experience famine.”

The Security Council adopted a presidential statement “strongly” condemning the use of starvation of civilians as a “method of warfare”.

The document reiterated the “need to break the vicious cycle between armed conflict and food insecurity”.

According to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation, the number of people experiencing hunger in the world in 2022 was between 691 million to 783 million, representing a substantial increase compared to the figures recorded in 2019.

Updated: August 03, 2023, 5:48 PM