U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took aim at Russia at the UN Security Council on Thursday, accusing Moscow of “blackmail” over its recent withdrawal from a key grain initiative.
The top U.S. diplomat, chairing a meeting about food insecurity at the UN’s headquarters in New York, told the 15-member Council that “hunger must not be weaponized.”
He singled out Russia, saying its invasion of Ukraine last year had sparked an “assault” on the global food system.
Blinken lambasted Moscow for pulling out last month from the so-called Black Sea grain initiative.
The agreement had allowed Ukrainian grain exports via the sea, during the conflict between the two countries.
Moscow refused to extend the deal, leading to a spike in grain prices that hit poorer countries hard.
“Every member of this council, every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow enough, enough using the Black Sea as blackmail,” said Blinken.
“Enough treating the world’s most vulnerable people as leverage. Enough of this unjustified unconscionable war,” he added.
The agreement, signed in July 2022 with Turkey acting as UN-backed facilitator between Ukraine and Russia, aimed to alleviate the risk of famine in the world by guaranteeing access of Ukrainian grain to work markets despite the war.
Moscow is demanding guarantees on another agreement concerning its own exports, in particular of fertilizer components.
Russian drones on Wednesday damaged infrastructure at a Ukrainian port on the Danube, as Moscow targeted facilities vital for grain shipments from Ukraine following the collapse of the deal.
Blinken said grain prices had increased by more than eight percent around the world since Russia’s withdrawal.
The Secretary of State presided over the meeting after the United States took over the monthly presidency of the Security Council on Tuesday.
Washington intends to issue a “joint communique condemning the use of food as a weapon of war” adopted on the sidelines of the meeting, which has already been signed by 91 countries, Blinken told ABC News.
Blinken also announced $362 million in new funding for programs to combat food insecurity and malnutrition in a dozen African countries and Haiti, a US official said.
Some 345 million people in 79 countries suffer from acute food insecurity.
Among the many causes of world hunger, in addition to armed conflict, are the effects of climate change.