WEISSENHAUS, Germany (AP) – The group of seven leading economies on Saturday warned of the war in Ukraine is fueling a global food and energy crisis that is threatening poor countries and urgent action is needed to release grain stocks that are preventing Russia from leaving Ukraine.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was hosting a meeting of senior G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a “global crisis”.
She said up to 50 million people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, would starve in the coming months unless ways were found to free up Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a sizeable share of the world’s supply.
In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany’s Baltic coast, the G-7 pledged to continue providing humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.
“Russia’s war of aggression has unleashed one of the worst food and energy crises in recent history, which is now threatening the most vulnerable around the world,” the group said.
“We are committed to accelerating a coordinated multilateral response to safeguard global food security and stand with our most vulnerable partners in this regard,” she added.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said her country, another major agricultural exporter, is willing to send ships to European ports so Ukrainian grain can be brought to those in need.
“We have to make sure this grain gets shipped out into the world,” she told reporters. “If not, millions of people will face starvation.”
Russia has denied claims that it is responsible for worsening world hunger and raising food prices.
“Prices are rising due to sanctions imposed by the West under US pressure,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “Not to understand this is either a sign of stupidity or intentionally misleading the public.”
The G-7 also urged China not to help Russia, including by undermining international sanctions or justifying Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
Beijing should support Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, not “support Russia in its war of aggression,” they said.
The G-7 called on China to “refrain from information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”
The grouping, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, also reiterated its stance that territories captured by Russian forces must be returned to Ukraine.
“We will never recognize borders that Russia has tried to change through military aggression,” they said.
The meeting in Weissenhaus, northeast of Hamburg, was heralded as an opportunity for officials to discuss the war’s broader implications for geopolitics, energy and food security, and ongoing international efforts to combat climate change and the pandemic.
In a series of final statements, the G-7 countries also addressed a wide range of global issues, from the situation in Afghanistan to tensions in the Middle East.
On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed to friendly countries provide more military support to Kyiv and increase pressure on Russia, including by seizing its assets abroad, to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
Kuleba said his country remains ready to talk with Russia about releasing stockpiles of grain stuck in Ukraine’s silos and also for a political agreement to end the war itself, but have so far received “no positive feedback” from Moscow.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published on Saturday that he had not noticed any change in Putin’s stance recently.
Scholz, who had extensive phone calls with the Russian leader on Friday, told the German news portal t-online that Putin has not achieved the military goals he set for himself at the beginning of the war, losing more Russian soldiers in the process than the Soviet Union lost during of the war, his decades-long campaign in Afghanistan.
“Putin should slowly understand that the only way out of this situation is an agreement with Ukraine,” Scholz was quoted as saying.
One idea discussed at the G-7 meeting was whether Russian state assets frozen abroad could be used to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
“Russia bears responsibility for the massive damage caused by this war,” said Baerbock. “And so it is a matter of justice that Russia should pay for this damage.”
However, she added that unlike in Canada – where legislation allows for the reuse of confiscated funds – the legal basis for doing so in Germany is uncertain.
“But that’s exactly what such meetings are for, to exchange views on how to resolve these legal issues,” said Baerbock.
Many of the foreign ministers traveled directly to an informal meeting of NATO diplomats in Berlin on Saturday and Sunday.
At this meeting, the entry of Finland and Sweden into the military alliance will be considered given concerns about the threat posed by Russia and ways in which NATO can support Ukraine without being drawn into the conflict.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was unable to attend the G-7 meeting after surviving the COVID-19 infection, was expected at the NATO meeting.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine