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It has been more than a year since Russia started a war of aggression against Ukraine and although thousands of miles away from Egypt, the global consequences of this unjustifiable breach of international law have become all too tangible for Egyptians trying to make ends meet amidst rising food prices.
Not only do the Russian attacks hinder the sowing and harvest of Ukrainian grain, but they also block and destroy vital export infrastructure. This prevents Ukrainian grain from entering the global market and results in supply shortages and exploding global grain prices. The „Black Sea Grain Initiative“ that was brokered by the UN and Turkey was a ray of hope for the countries suffering most from this crisis as it allowed for at least parts of Ukrainian food commodities to reach international markets from Black Sea harbours. It also gave Russian grain exports ways to reach international markets. Egypt alone has received 52 ships carrying over 1,4 Million tons of Ukrainian grain, corn, sunflower oil and soya exported through the BSGI corridor between August 2022 and June 2023, making the country one of the main beneficiaries of this vital initiative. (In addition to the tons of Ukrainian agricultural products that reached Egypt via the alternative land transport system of „EU solidarity lanes“ established by Germany and its EU partner countries to ease the global outfall of the crisis.)
Now this ray of hope has started to fade as Russia is threatening, once again, not to prolong the agreement on the „Black Sea Grain Initiative“. A sudden closure of this vital economic corridor would prevent a large share of the 50 Million tons of Ukrainian grain expected for 2023/2024 from export, thus, causing again severe food supply shortages on the global market. According to UN statistics almost 80 % of the agricultural goods transported via the BSGI corridor so far have gone to least developed and developing countries. Subsequently, a boycott would equally cut a global lifeline -with devastating repercussions for Egypt and other countries already suffering from economic crises and supply problems.
Russia seems to be willing to accept or even actively pursue this tremendous „collateral damage“. The threats to boycott the BSGI serve no other than Russian interests: Despite Russia’s false claims that EU sanctions interfere with Russian grain exports, Moscow has even profited from a 35% rise in own grain exports in 2022. Against this background, the twofold objective of a possible Russian stop of the BSGI becomes clear: further weaken the Ukrainian economy and increasing own profits from rising world market prices for exported grain.
As an international community, we cannot accept that Russia forcefully impedes its own interest at the expense of not only the Ukrainian people and the law-based global order, but also of countless vulnerable people all around the world. So far, Egypt has tried hard to withstand these external impacts and the Egyptian people have shown great resilience and perseverance, but a Russian boycott of the BSGI could further exacerbate the Egyptian economic crisis and increase prices for basic food commodities even more.
Germany and its international partners stand with Egypt and all countries and people suffering from the Russian aggression and its consequences. We are working tirelessly within the EU and the UN to help bring Russian-Ukrainian negotiations on the BSGI to a positive outcome. It is on Russia now to prevent further hardship for Egypt and other vulnerable countries.