The United Nations awaits Russia’s response as the Black Sea Grains Agreement deadline nears Ship’s crew


By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, July 14 (Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is still awaiting a response from Russian President Vladimir Putin on a proposal to extend an agreement allowing safe Black Sea exports of Ukrainian grain beyond Monday, Ein said UN spokesman on Friday.

Guterres wrote to Putin on Tuesday, urging him to extend the Black Sea Agreement in exchange for connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s Agrarian Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the international payments system SWIFT, sources told Reuters.

The last ship sailing under the Black Sea Agreement loads its cargo in the Ukrainian port of Odessa. Russia has not agreed to register new ships since June 27, and the initiative expires on Monday unless Moscow agrees to an extension.

Russia has threatened to pull out of the deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 because Moscow pledged to do so requirements Targets to improve domestic grain and fertilizer exports have not been met. Ukraine and Russia are among the largest grain exporters in the world.

More than 32 million tons of corn, wheat and other grains were exported from Ukraine under the agreement. Russia has complained that it was not reaching enough poor countries, but the UN argued that it had helped those states by helping to bring down world food prices by more than 20%.

“Discussions are held, WhatsApp messages are sent, signal messages are sent and exchanged. We are also awaiting a response to the letter,” UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters when asked about the negotiations.

Russia has no statements made The Kremlin said Friday that the Black Sea Grains Agreement would be extended after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s statement caused confusion agreed with Putin that it should be extended.

According to the TASS news agency, Putin said on Thursday he had not seen the letter from Guterres in which he proposed an extension of the deal, but that Russia was in contact with UN officials.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday urged Russia to extend and expand the Black Sea Agreement, accusing Russia of using the deal “as a weapon” by threatening to end it.

“If Russia doesn’t end its horrific war of aggression against Ukraine, it could at least expand the Black Sea Grains Initiative to allow that food to get out into the world, keeping prices down and maintaining supplies,” Blinken told a news conference in Jakarta.

To persuade Russia to agree to the Black Sea Agreement, a three-year memorandum of understanding was signed in July 2022, in which UN officials agreed to help Russia bring its food and fertilizer exports to foreign markets.

While Russian food and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions imposed in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has said restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have been a barrier to supplies.

A central demand from Russia is the reconnection of Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT. It was suspended by the EU in June 2022 because of the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The EU is considering connecting a subsidiary of Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT to enable grain and fertilizer transactions, sources familiar with the discussions said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Will Dunham)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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