By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- On Thursday, at a White House press conference, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told journalists that Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative is directly responsible for a major spike in wheat prices. Jean-Pierre said the initiative already was responsible for having delivered 32 million tons of grain to rural markets. As she explained: “Russia’s actiions to take such a significant amount of food products off the world markets will exacerbate hunger in some of the hardest-hit areas of the world, including Africa.” Meanwhile, prior to the press conference, Putin, who convened the first day of his Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, told African leaders that he would provide them with thousands of tons of grain free of charge. Though Putin has claimed Western sanctions on Russian grain and fertilizer, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken refuted Putin’s claims. Last week, both the U.N. Chief and Blinken in formal statements provided evidence that Putin’s stated version of events is false.
At the summit, that he chaired, Putin made the following statement to 17 African leaders in attendance: “We will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea with 25-50,000 tons of free grain each in the next three-four months.” Putin added that “free delivery of these products to consumers” will be provided. Putin terminated his end of the grain deal, claiming that the West had not held to its commitments where Russian grain and fertilizer were concerned even though Guterres in a letter to Putin – outlined exactly what has been done to accommodate Russia. In fact, Guterres stated in his formal letter to Putin that there were no sanctions placed on Russian grain or fertilizer as an exception to assist Russia also in delivering its products to much needed global markets. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who had been instrumental in initiating talks with Russia and Ukraine for the grain deal, told the press earlier this week that he believes Putin will return to the grain deal and that Putin is scheduled to visit Turkiye in August.