Russia says renewing grain export deal with Ukraine “complicated” after U.N. chief calls the pact “critical”

Russia says renewing grain export deal with Ukraine “complicated” after U.N. chief calls the pact “critical”

United Nations — Russia’s top diplomat said Thursday that it would be “quite complicated” for Moscow to sign a renewal of an agreement reached between his country and Ukraine last year that has allowed the two countries to export wheat, easing a global food. the crisis. A day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Kiev in a bid to shore up the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reinforced long-standing complaints from Moscow that the deal was “halved”, claiming that western sanctions. were blocking the export of Russian waste covered by the agreement.

“If the package is half-fulfilled, then the issue of extension becomes quite complicated,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow.

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The agreement, negotiated and implemented by the UN and Turkey, is due to be renewed by March 18, but there have been growing concerns that Russia may refuse to continue it.

“Our Western colleagues, the United States and the European Union, pathetically state that sanctions are not applied to food and garbage, but this attitude is dishonest,” Lavrov said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meet in Kiev, Ukraine on March 8, 2023. Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev on Wednesday morning, Guterres thanked Zelenksyy for the welcome “under such difficult circumstances” and said it was important to “underline the critical importance of overturning the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”

Representatives from the UN and Turkey have met to try to keep wheat exports flowing. The wheat initiative was signed in July 2022 in an urgent effort to free about 20 million tons of grain that were then stuck in silos, ships and other storage facilities amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

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With Ukrainian ports blocked and sanctions preventing the export of some Russian grains and fertilizers, global food prices soared, putting humanitarian aid efforts around the world at particular risk. CBS News met with hungry mothers and aid workers in South Sudan, who said the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports is exacerbating one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet.

The UN has called the deal vital to help “alleviate the suffering this global cost-of-living crisis is causing billions of people”.

According to the Joint Coordination Center in Turkey, which manages shipping lanes and cargo inspections under the auspices of the agreement, about 23 million tons of grain have been exported since its entry into force.

Russia says it will renew participation in the Black Sea grain deal

The agreement was also intended to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizer, but Moscow has long complained that those shipments have been cut off by US and European sanctions. Russian officials said as recently as November that they would renew the pact, but the intense fighting still going on in Ukraine had called the extension into question, and Lavrov’s latest comments are sure to heighten concerns about its renewal.

Although food exports have not been placed under global sanctions, Moscow claims restrictions on banking and insurance companies have blocked the export of thousands of tons of Russian fertilizer.

The agreement reached in July has been extremely important to Guterres, who personally helped negotiate its terms. In his statement on Wednesday, the UN chief said that until “a just peace can be secured” in Ukraine, he and the UN “will continue to work hard to mitigate the effects of the conflict which has caused great suffering for the Ukrainian people – with deep global implications”.

He said the wheat deal had “contributed to lowering the global cost of food and provided critical relief to people, who are also paying a high price for this war, especially in the developing world.”

A crew member prepares a grain analysis for an inspection conducted by members of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) on board the Barbados-flagged ship “Nord Vind” coming from Ukraine, loaded with wheat and docked in Istanbul, 11 October 2022. YASIN AKGUL /AFP/Getty

The UN chief said earlier that the four parties to the deal – Ukraine, Russia, the UN and Turkey – were “working hard to remove all remaining obstacles… to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports to global markets.” “.

Both Kiev and Moscow have restored their grain exports under the deal, easing global food prices. Bloomberg reported last week that Russian grain exports were booming and that wheat shipments had nearly doubled over the past year.

There were early warning signs last week that Russia may refuse to renew the deal when Lavrov, during a G-20 summit in India, accused the US and Europe of “shamelessly burying” the pact.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia at that meeting of “deliberately and systematically” slowing Ukrainian wheat export shipments.

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