Italy’s Draghi says Ukraine needs assurances on ports to ship grains

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PARIS, June 9 (Reuters) – Global efforts to avoid a food crisis start at Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and Kyiv needs assurances that they will not be attacked to resume grain shipments, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday.

Grain shipments from Ukraine, a major exporter, have fallen sharply since Russia’s invasion, sparking fears of food shortages in the most vulnerable countries.

“We need to unblock the millions of tonnes of cereals that are stuck there because of the conflict. The United Nations’ and Turkey’s mediation efforts are significant steps,” Draghi said in a speech at an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris.

“We have to offer President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy the assurances he needs that the ports will not be attacked,” he added.

Russia says shipments are being prevented by mines planted by Ukraine in its own harbours, and that western sanctions and global supply chain problems are causing the risk of a global food crisis. 

Together with surging energy prices, rising food prices are contributing to higher inflation in rich countries, prompting central banks to raise interest rates, said Draghi, who previously headed the European Central Bank.

He said energy prices needed to be reduced and that a price cap on Russian gas imports discussed last week by EU leaders would help keep inflation down and boost Europeans’ incomes as well as reduce the flow of funds to Moscow.

The Kremlin said on Thursday that no agreement had been reached with Turkey on exporting Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that work was continuing.

Turkey has been pushing for an agreement between Russia and Ukraine on a plan to resume grain exports from Ukrainian ports, although prospects for a deal look dim, with each side blaming the other for disrupting global food supplies.

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