Black Sea grain deal in jeopardy as UN, Turkey await Russia’s response | United Nations News

UN and Turkish officials in Istanbul are waiting for a response from Russia if the last train carrying Ukrainian grain leaves Odesa.

A United Nations deal with Turkey that allowed Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea could expire on Monday if Russia does not agree to an extension.

The last cargo ship to sign the agreement left Ukraine on Sunday and crossed the Black Sea from the port of Odesa to Turkey, according to the Marine Traffic website.

There was no word from the talks in Istanbul, where Turkish and UN officials are trying to pressure Moscow to agree to further expansion of the agreement.

The Russian news agency TASS quoted a statement from the UN as saying that they are still hopeful that the agreement will be passed before midnight Istanbul time (21:00 GMT).

“We are still waiting for Moscow, everything is possible,” the source told TASS.

Originally signed in July 2022, a Black Sea Grain Initiative to discuss to solve the world food crisis contaminated by Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest grain exporters, and their conflict and the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have sent food prices soaring around the world.

The Black Sea Initiative has allowed Ukraine to export about 33 million tons of corn, wheat and other crops. Russian officials, however, say there is no reason to extend the deal, saying their demands to improve Russia’s grain and fertilizer trade have not been met.

Moscow has also complained that insufficient crops have reached poor countries.

But the UN has said that the system has benefited these countries by helping to reduce food prices by 20 percent worldwide.

The international organization said the World Food Program (WFP) has bought 80 percent of wheat so far in 2023 from Ukraine – up from 50 percent in 2021 and 2022.

WFP has sent about 725,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat to Afghanistan, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen to fight famine. The organization said that the alliance has so far supplied wheat to 45 countries in three continents – 46 percent in Asia, 40 percent in Western Europe, 12 percent in Africa and 1 percent in Eastern Europe.

Russia has done so they tied it three times last year expanding the Black Sea alliance, and briefly halting its involvement in late October in response to a drone attack on its ships in Crimea.

In order to convince Russia to cooperate with the Black Sea Initiative, a three-year agreement was reached in July 2022 where UN officials agreed to help Russia get food and fertilizers to foreign markets.

Although Russia’s food and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has said restrictions on payments, goods and insurance have hampered exports.

A major priority in Russia has been for the Agricultural Bank of Russia (Rosselkhozbank) to be re-connected to the SWIFT international payment system. The bank was removed from SWIFT by the European Union in June 2022 due to the Russian attack.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tried on Tuesday to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the Black Sea agreement for several months so that the EU can connect Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT to sell seeds and fertilizers, Reuters reported. .

Guterres is still waiting for a response from Putin, according to a UN spokesman.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow has already started talking with Turkey about a plan to ensure that its grain – possibly processed by Turkey – reaches the countries that need it regardless of the future of the Black Sea agreement.

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