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Slovak PM calls for a security guarantor for Ukraine grain exports

BRATISLAVA — The United Nations or Turkey should act as a security guarantor for ensuring the safe shipment of grain and other food products out of the port of Odesa, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger said Friday.

Speaking at the Globsec conference in the Slovak capital, Heger said that reopening Ukraine’s maritime ports was the only practical way of exporting millions of tons of grain stuck in the country as road and rail options can’t offer sufficient capacity.

“We need to free the port by a third force that will [guarantee] security as an arbiter,” said Heger. “That’s how we can get the grain.”

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, maritime ports such as Odesa have been under a blockade, making it impossible to export foodstuff to import-reliant countries.

That has sparked a food crisis in dependent countries across Africa and Asia, and has raised food prices globally.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is trying to coordinate the export of millions of tons of grain by road and rail, though such overland corridors cannot replace the volumes that can be shifted by ships.

A number of European countries support efforts to reopen maritime corridors but it’s unclear if Russia will agree to any deal.

“We need the harbors [and] the most important question is how we reach that goal,” Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer also said at Globsec. “The most important problem is that we don’t have time.”

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