(Reuters) – The Western alliance said on Saturday that NATO and Ukraine will discuss security in the Black Sea next week, in particular the operation of a corridor for grain exports, at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
NATO spokesman Oano Lungescu said the NATO-Ukraine Council, set up at the alliance’s summit this month, will discuss the situation after Russia pulled out of the year-old pact that oversees grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
Zelensky said he requested the meeting in a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Lungescu said the two men discussed Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement and its “continued attempts to weaponize food, which affects millions of vulnerable people around the world.”
She said that the meeting will be held at the ambassadorial level. The Council’s inaugural meeting, at the NATO summit in Vilnius, was attended by heads of state or government.
Zelensky, in his nightly video address, said earlier that the council has brought cooperation with NATO “to a new, more advanced level, the NATO-Ukraine Council, and this mechanism can have an impact.”
“I suggested to Jens that the Council convene without delay for the relevant crisis consultations. The meeting will be held in the coming days. We can overcome the security crisis in the Black Sea.”
Russia said it withdrew from the agreement on the grounds that Western countries had ignored its demands to guarantee Moscow’s exports of food and fertilizers. Moscow said ships heading to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports could be considered military targets.
The United Nations aid official told the Security Council on Friday that rising grain prices since Russia withdrew from the deal “potentially threaten hunger and lead to worse for millions of people.”
Additional reporting by Andrew Gray, Ron Popeski and Nick Starkoff. Editing by Paul Simao and Daniel Wallis
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