The United Nations said Wednesday it was relatively optimistic about prospects for renewing an agreement that allows grain exports from war-torn Ukraine.
The 120-day Black Sea Grain Initiative, a UN-led deal agreed with Moscow and Kyiv, runs until November 19.
It spells out terms for exporting grain from Ukrainian ports blocked by the war Russia started in February.
A second agreement signed in parallel allows the export of Russian food and fertilizers despite Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the invasion.
The Ukraine arrangement has allowed nearly nine million tons of grain to leave those ports and ease a global food crisis triggered by the invasion.
But uncertainty over whether the accord will be renewed has already caused prices of some food products to rise.
“We are keen to see that renewed promptly now. It's important for the market. It's important for just continuity,” said Martin Griffiths, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs.
“And I'm still relatively optimistic that we're going to get that,” said Griffiths.
“I'm happy that Martin is relatively optimistic that the grain deal is extended,” Russian UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia said. But he said Russia must see its own exports of grain and fertilizer allowed to transit as well.
“I've been saying for a long time already (that) the hurdles remain the same,” he added.
The parties to the Black Sea accord are the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, but the main negotiators in the grain deal renewal talks are the UN and Moscow.
Griffiths traveled recently to Moscow with Rebeca Grynspan, the secretary general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
He said that technically there is no need for a new agreement, but rather a need to reassess and simplify existing procedures.
“We're very keen not only to have that Black Sea operation renewed for as long as the parties would allow,” he added, but also on “removing those impediments to Russian grain and fertilizer exports to happen.”
Russia complains that even with the accord it is not able to sell these products because of sanctions against its financial and logistical sectors.
Griffiths said he had useful discussions on this Tuesday in Washington.
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