Don’t Give Up on the Black Sea Grains Deal

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Unless Russia agrees to extend a deal allowing the safe export of grain and fertilizer from Ukrainian ports, western states are unlikely to continue cooperating with officials in the the UN to help Moscow with its exports, the UN aid chief said. Friday.

Russia has threatened to walk away from the deal, which expires on July 17, after several requests to ship its own grain and fertilizer have not been met. The last three ships traveling under the deal are loading cargo in the Ukrainian port of Odessa and are expected to leave on Monday.

“The world has seen the value of the Black Sea Initiative…it’s not something you dismiss,” the UN’s Martin Griffiths told reporters.

The United Nations and Turkey negotiated the Black Sea Grain Initiative with Russia and Ukraine in July 2022 to help address a global food crisis compounded by Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor and blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy discussed the deal with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday in Istanbul.

“We are working on how long we can extend (the agreement) after July 17. Our hope is that it will be extended at least once every three months, not every two months. We will make an effort at this regard and will try to extend its duration to two years,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference with Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy said the Black Sea deal was important in helping the world fight hunger.

“It is crucial that we act in such a way that the life of the grain corridor, and therefore the life of others, does not depend on the mood in which the President of the Russian Federation wakes up,” Zelenskiy said.

More than 32 million tons of corn, wheat and other cereals were exported by Ukraine under this agreement. Russia has complained that it is not reaching poor countries enough, but the United Nations says it has benefited these states by helping to lower food prices by more than 20% in the world. world.

Griffiths is the lead UN official on Ukraine’s Black Sea deal, while senior UN trade official Rebeca Grynspan works to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.

Grynspan hopes to be in Moscow before July 17 and Griffiths hopes to meet the parties next week in Istanbul, where a joint coordination center of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials is implementing the Black Sea deal. .


Grynspan has worked with the United States, European Union, Britain and others to smooth Russian exports. Russia described the Black Sea deal and the deal to facilitate its own exports as a single package.

“One package works both ways,” Griffiths said, suggesting any Western cooperation with UN officials over Russian exports could evaporate if the Black Sea deal is not extended by Moscow. .

To convince Russia to accept the Black Sea deal, a three-year memorandum of understanding was struck at the same time under which UN officials agreed to help Russia with its food exports and fertilizer.

While Russian food and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have been an obstacle to shipments.

Russia’s demands include resuming Black Sea ammonia exports and reconnecting the Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT payment system. The Black Sea deal allows exports of ammonia – a key ingredient in nitrogen fertilizers – but none have been shipped.

A pipeline, which once pumped up to 2.5 million tons of ammonia a year for global export to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Pivdennyi from Togliatti in western Russia, has stood idle since the start of the war.

Last month it was damaged in three places, Griffiths said, adding that the UN had offered to send a team to assess it. He said both parties were interested, but a team had not yet been deployed because the damage to the pipeline was in an active war zone.

He said that if it could be repaired, an arrangement would be needed to protect it from war. According to the International Energy Agency, it is the longest ammonia pipeline in the world at approximately 2,470 kilometers (1,534 miles).

“So there are a lot of hurdles to making this a realistic prospect immediately,” Griffiths said.

As the expiry date nears, the Black Sea Grains Deal comes to a halt.

No new ships have been registered to visit Ukraine since June 26. As part of the deal, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey have allowed the ships to travel, and all ships are being inspected by a joint team of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Additional reporting by Can Sezer in Istanbul and Elaine Monaghan in Washington and Oleksandr Kozhukhar in Kyiv; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Grant McCool)

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