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Ukraine and Pakistan call for restoring the Black Sea grain deal after talks in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD — The foreign ministers of Ukraine and Pakistan called Thursday for the restoration of the Black Sea grain initiative to ensure global food security, days after Russia halted the wartime deal that had allowed grain to flow from Ukraine.

The two sides made the demand at a news conference after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari after arriving on his first visit to the Islamic nation.

Kuleba also met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, according to a government statement. It quoted Sharif saying that the conflict in Ukraine has had a significant global impact that has hurt the economies of many countries.

Kuleba briefed Sharif on the current situation in Ukraine, recalling that their countries had always enjoyed long-standing and cordial relations grounded in cooperation and friendship with the common objective to contribute towards global peace and regional stability.

Pakistan has been a regular importer of wheat from Kyiv in recent years — as much as 1 million tons in 2021 by Kuleba’s estimate. The grain deal, negotiated in July 2022 among Turkey, the U.N. and Russia, had allowed grain to flow to countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices have pushed more people into poverty.

Russia announced Monday it was pulling out of the deal, and on Wednesday, Russian strikes on Ukraine’s southern port areas destroyed some of its critical grain export infrastructure as well as 60,000 tons of grain that was designated for China.

Kuleba said at the news conference that the Russian strikes mean “60,000 tons of grain will never make it to the people who want to buy bread at a reasonable price and as prices go up.”

Kuleba said his country has made some progress in improving land corridors for exporting its grain but that the best way remains by sea. He said Russia wanted to replace Ukrainian grain on the global market, and that “Russia is increasing its exports of grain, making more money for its war machine.”

Kuleba thanked Pakistan for providing his country with humanitarian aid when it was most needed and at a time when Pakistan itself was struggling economically. “But this is what friends do, they help each other in times of the greatest need,” Kuleba said.

Both foreign ministers underlined their countries’ desire to continue the Black Sea grain deal. Butto-Zardari said he would contact representatives of the U.N., Turkey and Russia to discuss the matter.

“We believe that prolonged conflict brings immense hardship and suffering to civilian populations. We hope, therefore, that peace will prevail so that the people of Ukraine and Russia can enjoy peace dividends,” the Pakistani foreign minister said.

Bhutto-Zardari said Pakistan is ready to support peace initiatives.

“The Ukraine conflict has also brought difficulties for developing countries and the Global South, particularly in terms of fuel, food and fertilizer shortages. Pakistan is no exception. We, therefore, have a vested interest in promoting peace and reconciliation,” Bhutto-Zardari said.

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