- Russia is ready to renew the agreement, but for a shorter period
- Moscow says the sanctions have created barriers to its exports
- The United Nations calls for preserving the integrity of the deal
- The deal aims to prevent a global food crisis
GENEVA (Reuters) – Russia proposed on Monday renewing an agreement allowing safe exports of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, but only for half the term of the previous renewal, while the United Nations pledged to do everything it could to ensure the integrity of the agreement. remained the same.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which the United Nations and Turkey brokered between Russia and Ukraine last July, aims to prevent a global food crisis by allowing Ukrainian grain besieged by the Russian invasion to be safely exported from three Ukrainian ports.
The deal, which was extended by 120 days in November, is up for renewal on Saturday. But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said after talks with UN officials in Geneva that Moscow was ready to extend the agreement by only 60 days, citing restrictions on Russian agricultural exporters.
He said Russia “does not object to another extension of the ‘Black Sea Initiative’ after its second term ends on March 18, but only for a period of 60 days.”
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Vershinin added, “Our further position will be determined based on tangible progress in the normalization of our agricultural exports, not in words, but in deeds.”
Russia argued that although the country’s agricultural exports were not explicitly targeted by the West, sanctions on its payments, logistics, and insurance industries created a barrier to its ability to export its own grain and fertilizer.
‘A decisive moment’
The United Nations said it had seen Russia’s position and remained “fully committed to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, as well as efforts to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizers.”
“The Secretary-General of the United Nations affirmed that the United Nations will do its best to preserve the integrity of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and ensure its continuity,” it added in a statement.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the negotiations were at a “critical moment” and that Washington supported their extension and expansion.
“We know the world needs this,” Price said. “We certainly hope and expect to see it expand and expand.”
A senior Ukrainian government official involved in the talks to secure the initial deal said Kiev viewed its 60-day extension as a violation of the terms of the agreement.
“The agreement clearly states that extensions are possible for a period of no less than 120 days,” he told Reuters. To extend it for 60 days, you have to modify the deal.
European dealers said uncertainty about the talks, particularly the statement that Russia only sought a 60-day extension, was a factor behind the price spikes in Euronext’s Paris wheat market.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tetro-Farber and Emma Farge in Geneva); Michael Hogan in Hamburg, Pavel Politiuk in Kiev, Michelle Nichols in New York, and Humira Pamuk in Washington. Editing by Miranda Murray, Christina Fincher, and Jonathan Otis
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