BERLIN – Top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations gathered Thursday in northern Germany for a three-day meeting centered on Russia's war against Ukraine and the wider impact it is having around the world, particularly on food and energy prices.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, the meeting's host, said the conflict already had become a “global crisis" because shipments of staple crops are stuck in Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter.
“Twenty-five million tons (27.5 million U.S. tons) of grain are currently blocked in Ukrainian ports, particularly Odesa,” Baerbock said. “Grain that's food for millions of people around the world, and which is needed particularly urgently in African countries and the Middle East.”
“That's why we are discussing how the grain blockade exerted by Russia can be unblocked, how we can get the grain out to the world,” she added.
Baerbock warned that the brewing global food emergency was being further fuelled by climate change — another topic the ministers plan to discuss during their meeting in Weissenhaus, a resort on Germany's Baltic Sea coast northeast of Hamburg.
About 3,500 police officers were deployed at the event site to provide security.
The foreign ministers of Ukraine and neighboring Moldova, which fears it could become the next target of Russia's aggression, have been invited to attend the meeting as guests. Indonesia’s foreign minister, whose country chairs the Group of 20 major economies this year, is expected to join remotely for part of the meeting Friday, when relations with China are on the agenda.
Speaking earlier Thursday in Berlin, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the German government's recent decisions to step up military support for his country.
“We see a positive, positive dynamic,” Kuleba told reporters after a meeting with German lawmakers. “We have to make sure that this positive dynamic is maintained.”
Kuleba said he considered it a “signal of strength” that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democratic Party had dropped its opposition to providing Ukraine with heavy weapons.
He also expressed hope that the European Union would soon approve Ukraine's application to start the process of joining the bloc. French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested it could be decades before Ukraine is ready to become a full EU member.
Baerbock, who recently became the first top representative of Germany to travel to Ukraine since the start of the war, offered support for Ukraine’s EU application. Asked about Ukraine’s request for fighter jets, Baerbock was less encouraging, citing the risk of NATO being drawn into a conflict with Russia.
“When it comes to no-fly zones and aviation support we’ve already taken a clear position,” she told reporters.
Britain's foreign secretary called for Ukrain to receive more sophisticated military support, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin should face “a defeat in Ukraine that denies him any benefit and ultimately constrains further aggression.”
“To help Ukraine, we need to go further and faster,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the meeting, according to remarks released by her office.
“The best long-term security for Ukraine will come from it being able to defend itself," Truss said. "That means providing Ukraine with a clear pathway to NATO-standard equipment."
Also attending the meeting in Weissenhaus were the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Italy and Japan. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is representing the United States; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is recovering from COVID-19 but is scheduled to travel to Berlin for a weekend meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
The NATO gathering will also hear from the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland as the two countries are poised to join the Western military alliance amid concerns over the military threat from Russia.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine