The UN will continue to press for the expansion of food and fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Senior UN officials vowed on Friday to continue working for an extension of the deal that allows food and fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine despite their war, pushing back Moscow’s pessimism about a renewal before the July 17 expiry.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged both countries to make global food security a priority and “help ensure that these products can reach global markets smoothly, efficiently and at scale.” “said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq. “Together, the agreements are contributing to sustained reductions in global food prices, which are now more than 23% below record levels reached in March last year.”

Turkey and the UN brokered a landmark deal with the warring parties last July, which allowed Ukraine to ship more than 32 million tonnes of grain from Black Sea ports to world markets.

Moscow, however, complains that the separate UN-Russia memorandum on facilitating Russian food and fertilizer shipments still faces serious obstacles.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on Friday that the United Nations had heard repeated statements from Russia “saying there was no benefit for them and time was up.” But as the secretary-general clarified, “that doesn’t stop us from doing everything we can to work towards an agreement,” he said.

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Unfortunately, at the moment there is no particular reason to extend the agreement.” But he also said that “there is still time for the West to fulfill the parts of the agreement that relate to Russia.”

Griffiths said UN trade chief Rebeca Grynspan, who has been in charge of the Russian part of the deal, “is very keen” to sit down with officials in Moscow next week. Griffitsh hopes to meet the parties to the Black Sea Grain Initiative – Ukraine, Russia and Turkey – in Istanbul “if possible next week”.

Ukraine and Russia are the world’s two main suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food products that developing countries depend on. Russia is also a major supplier of ammonia, a key ingredient in fertilizers.

Russia has faced difficulties in arranging maritime, insurance and banking transactions due to sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Moscow is also calling for the reopening of the ammonia pipeline from Togliatti on the Volga in western Russia to the Black Sea port of Odessa in Ukraine.

Griffiths said Grynspan and his team had made “very significant progress” in removing barriers to Russian grain and fertilizer exports. But he said the ammonia pipeline is damaged in three places in a very active war zone.

The UN has offered to send experts to assess the damage, but an agreement between Russia and Ukraine is needed to ensure their safe passage, he said. Even if repairs are made, he added, “then we will have to have an arrangement to protect this pipeline from war.”

Griffiths said Grynspan’s team had made “some progress” in resolving restrictions on the operation of the sanctioned Russian Agricultural Bank, which Moscow wants lifted. He did not elaborate, but said removing the barriers Grynspan is trying to negotiate depends on cooperation, especially from the United States and European countries.

Griffiths stressed that the renewal of the grain deal is one package, saying “it’s very important that everyone understands that we want both to work to the fullest”.

“And in the absence of a Black Sea initiative, I don’t think the level of cooperation will continue,” he added.

The Black Sea Initiative has been extended three times, and if it’s not extended once again, Ukraine’s upcoming harvest will remain in silos and global food prices will ‘skyrocket again’ – and it will have terrible consequences,” Griffiths said.

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