Conflicts & War

UN reaches out to Russia to preserve Black Sea grain deal

United Nations, Jul 12 (EFE).- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has offered Russia assistance in facilitating financial transactions in a bid to secure Moscow’s support for extending the accord that has allowed Ukraine to export more than 30.2 million tons of grain since July 2022, the UN said Wednesday.

“As you know, the secretary-general has been very much focused on ensuring the continuous access to global markets of food and fertilizer exports from the Russian Federation and Ukraine for global food security,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, agricultural exports from the two countries – both major suppliers of grain – were disrupted, causing shortages that led to sharply higher prices.

A year ago, the UN and Turkey brokered an agreement between Moscow and Kyiv to create a safe corridor for transport of grain, fertilizer, and ammonia.

With an original duration of 120 days, the pact has been renewed several times, but Russia says that it sees no reason to agree to another extension when the current term expires on July 17, citing persistent obstacles to exports of Russian ammonia and fertilizer.

In a letter Tuesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Guterres outlined “a proposal aiming to harmonize the vital further implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding with the vital need to keep the Black Sea Initiative operational,” Dujarric said.

“The objective is to remove hurdles affecting financial transactions through the Russian Agricultural Bank, a major concern expressed by the Russian Federation, and simultaneously allow for the continued flow of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea,” the spokesman said.

Those “hurdles” are due partly to the decision of the United States and the European Union to expel Russia from SWIFT, the principal messaging system for international transactions.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative includes specific exemptions from the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West for invading Ukraine, but Moscow complains of ongoing obstruction of shipments of Russian fertilizer and ammonia.

Guterres “will continue to stress the crucial importance of food and fertilizer exports from both the Russian Federation and Ukraine to global food security,” the UN spokesman said, crediting the accord with having brought food prices down 23 percent from their peak in March 2022.

The secretary-general, according to Dujarric, believes that “vulnerable people … stand to lose the most from any unraveling of the Istanbul arrangements and a likely subsequent rise in global food and fertilizer prices.”

The spokesman did not rule out a visit to Moscow by Rebeca Grynspan, head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the agency conducting negotiations with Russia on this matter. EFE fjo/dr

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