G7 to tackle Ukraine grain crisis, continue economic pressure on Russia

Group of Seven foreign ministers vowed on Saturday to reinforce Russia's economic and political isolation, continue supplying weapons to Ukraine and tackle what Germany's foreign minister described as a "wheat war" being waged by Moscow.

Russia should help in reconstruction of Ukraine, Canada's foreign affairs minister says

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba talks to reporters during a break in the G7 talks on Friday in northern Germany. Kuleba said his country remains willing to talk to Russia about unblocking grain supplies stuck in Ukraine's silos. (Georg Wendt/Getty Images)

Group of Seven foreign ministers vowed on Saturday to reinforce Russia's economic and political isolation, continue supplying weapons to Ukraine and tackle what Germany's foreign minister described as a "wheat war" being waged by Moscow.

After meeting at a castle estate in the Baltic Sea resort of Weissenhaus, the ministers from Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union also pledged to continue their military and defence assistance for "as long as necessary."

They would also tackle what they called Russian misinformation aimed at blaming the West for food supply issues around the world due to economic sanctions on Moscow and urged China to not assist Moscow or justify Russia's war in Ukraine, according to a joint statement.

"Have we done enough to mitigate the consequences of this war? It is not our war. It's a war by the president of Russia, but we have global responsibility," Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters at a closing news conference, following three days of talks.

Energy agreement expected

Key to putting more pressure on Russia is to ban or phase out buying Russian oil with EU member states expected next week to reach an agreement on the issue even if it remains at this stage opposed by Hungary.

"We will expedite our efforts to reduce and end reliance on Russian energy supplies and as quickly as possible, building on G7 commitments to phase out or ban imports of Russian coal and oil," the statement said.

The ministers said they would add further sanctions on Russian elites, including economic actors, central government institutions and the military, which enable President Vladimir Putin "to lead his war of choice," which began Feb. 24.

Goal of getting grain out of Ukraine

The meeting in northern Germany, which the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Moldova attended, also spotlighted food security concerns and fears that the war in Ukraine could spill over into its smaller neighbour Moldova.

The G7 warned that the war in Ukraine is stoking a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries. They said urgent measures are needed to unblock stores of grain that Russia is preventing from leaving Ukraine.

"Russia's war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe," the group said.

Baerbock said the G7 would work on finding logistical solutions to get vital commodities out of Ukraine storage before the next harvests.

"People will be dying in Africa and the Middle East and we are faced with an urgent question: how can people be fed around the world? People are asking themselves what will happen if we don't have the grain we need that we used to get from Russia and Ukraine," Baerbock said.

Make 'perpetrators' pay for rebuilding

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said there's G7 interest in the idea of seizing assets and selling them to help with the reconstruction of Ukraine.

"It is fundamental that the reconstruction of Ukraine be funded by the perpetrators of this war. There's a lot of interest on the part of G7 members. We've definitely had the conversation about this," Joly said on Saturday during a media briefing.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly addresses the media after three days of G7 talks that ended Saturday in Weissenhaeuser, Germany. (Marcus Brandt/The Associated Press)

Joly said reconstruction cannot be done without de-mining and that Canada would be helping to map landmines in Ukraine and to educate the population on the issue.

"Families cannot go back to their homes ... and kids cannot go back to parks or playgrounds because there are so many landmines across the country," she said.

Talks over expanding NATO

Attention now turns to Berlin as ministers meet later on Saturday with Sweden and Finland gearing up to apply for membership of the transatlantic alliance, drawing threats of retaliation from Moscow and objections from NATO member Turkey.

"It is important that we have a consensus," Joly told reporters when asked about Turkey possibly blocking their accession.

WATCH | Poland in favour of Sweden, Finland joining NATO, says deputy foreign minister

Poland very much in favour of Sweden, Finland joining NATO, says Deputy Foreign Minister

3 months ago
Duration 8:57
"When it comes to Sweden and Finland, Poland is very much in favour of them joining NATO." Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz goes on to say his country supports an open-door policy as countries like Ukraine "are waiting in the queue".

Turkey has not shut the door to Sweden and Finland joining NATO but wants negotiations with the Nordic countries and a clampdown on what it sees as terrorist activities, especially in Stockholm, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesperson said on Saturday.

"We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey," said Ibrahim Kalin, the president's top foreign policy adviser.

Erdogan surprised NATO members on Friday when he said it was "not possible" for Turkey, which has NATO membership, to support enlarging the alliance because Finland and Sweden were "home to many terrorist organizations."

Top diplomats from Finland and Turkey are holding talks in Berlin to try and resolve the disagreements, Finland's foreign minister said. 

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrives for an informal working dinner at the North Atlantic Council meeting with the foreign ministers of Finland and Sweden in Berlin on Saturday. (Michael Sohn/The Associated Press)

"I am sure we will find a solution," Pekka Haavesto told reporters as he arrived in the German capital, adding he had spoken to his "good colleague" Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu by phone on Friday. 

Any country seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance needs the unanimous support of the members of the military alliance. The United States and other member states have been trying to clarify Ankara's position.

Allies will also explore security guarantees for Finland and Sweden for the duration of a ratification period that could take as long as a year, during which the Nordic countries are not yet protected by NATO's Article 5, which guarantees that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

With files from CBC News