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G-7 warns of global food and energy crisis

Russia's war in the 'breadbasket of Europe' threatens to cause widespread hunger particularly in Africa and the Middle East, the G-7 warned.

G-7 foreign ministers meeting in Germany
G-7 foreign ministers meeting in Germany (AN/G-7)

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is causing a global food and energy crisis that threatens the lives of tens of millions of people particularly in Africa and the Middle East, the Group of Seven's top diplomats warned on Saturday.

Calling it a "watershed moment for the 21st century" with ramifications well beyond European borders, the G-7 rich democracies' foreign ministers condemned Russia's aggression and pledged an urgent, coordinated response to keep Ukraine's massive exports of wheat and other grains flowing despite Russia's clampdown on that vital global food supply.

"We, the G7, want to make abundantly clear that we will not sit by whilst countries flagrantly disregard the international rulebook, on which we all depend for peace, prosperity, security and stability," the ministers said in a communiqué after their meeting in Weissenhaus, Germany. "Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe. Such actions must not stand."

Ukraine has been one of the world's largest exporters of wheat, corn and other grains, along with vegetable oils. Ukraine and Russia together accounted for more than a quarter of the world's wheat production before the war.

The G-7's top diplomats noted the war "undermines and reverses progress" to deal with the planet's already considerable challenges. "On the immediate crisis, the G-7 is committed to both short-and-long term-support for Ukraine," they said. "We are determined to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to preserve global food security and stand by our most vulnerable partners in this respect."

An urgent question

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, the food it produced was exported through its seven Black Sea ports and provided enough to feed 400 million people, according to the World Food Program.

“We have to open up these ports so that food can move in and out of Ukraine,” said WFP's Executive Director David Beasley. “The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people globally depend on food that comes through these ports.”

At a news conference following the G-7 meeting, its host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, emphasized the war's broader implications.

"This is a war that Russia has started and this war has resulted in a global crisis," said Baerbock. "Up to 50 million people especially in countries in Africa, in the Middle East are dying because — they will be dying in the months to come — and we are faced with a very urgent question: How can millions of people be fed around the world?"

"We, as an international community," she said, "mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, they are all asking themselves, 'What will happen if we don't have the grain we need that we used to get from Ukraine and Russia? What will happen if it does not arrive in the next weeks and months?' "

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied her nation is to blame for causing more hunger or higher food prices. “Prices are rising because of sanctions imposed by the West under pressure of the USA,” she said.

G-7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — also called on China "not to assist Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine, not to undermine sanctions imposed on Russia for its attack against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, not to justify Russian action in Ukraine, and to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine."