WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Thursday welcomed a UN-brokered agreement in principle to resume Ukrainian exports of Black Sea grain, but said it focused on holding Russia accountable. in the implementation of the agreement.
State Department spokesman Ned Price made the comment during a regular press briefing after Turkey announced that Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, will sign a deal on Friday.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has blocked grain exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos at the port of Odessa.
“We never should have been in this position in the first place,” Price said. “This was a deliberate move by the Russian Federation to militarize food.
“What we have heard over the past two hours is a welcome development, but what will really matter is the implementation of this agreement. We will of course continue to work with our partners to hold Russia accountable for its Implementation.”
Russia and Ukraine are the world’s two main suppliers of wheat, but Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor on February 24 has driven up food prices and fueled an international food crisis.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis, instead blaming the chilling effect of Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining its ports in the black Sea.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, David Brunnstrom and Ismail Shakil; editing by Grant McCool)