UN’s Guterres calls on Russia to rejoin Black Sea deal

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Russia on Monday to return to a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain in line with a proposal he made to President Vladimir Putin.

Russia quit the agreement a week ago, saying that demands to improve its own food and fertilizer exports had not been met, and that not enough Ukraine grain had reached the poorest countries under the Black Sea deal.

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“With the termination of the Black Sea Initiative, the most vulnerable will pay the highest price,” Guterres told the UN Food Systems summit in Rome on Monday. “When food prices rise, everybody pays for it.”

Since Russia quit the deal and began attacking Ukrainian food-exporting ports on the Black Sea and Danube river, global wheat and corn futures have risen sharply.

“This is especially devastating for vulnerable countries struggling to feed their people,” Guterres said.

Guterres had written to Putin on July 11 in a final effort to save the deal. He proposed Russia extend it - with a daily limit of four ships traveling to Ukraine and four ships leaving - in return for connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s Agricultural Bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the SWIFT global payments system.

A key demand by Moscow has been reconnecting Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT. The European Union cut it off in June 2022.

“I call on the Russian Federation to return to the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, in line with my latest proposal,” Guterres said. “I urge the global community to stand united for effective solutions in this essential effort.”

The Black Sea grain deal was brokered by the UN and Turkey a year ago to combat a global food crisis worsened by Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia are both leading grain exporters.

Russia’s grain exports have risen since the war, but its ammonia and potassium-based fertilizers have fallen sharply.

“I remain committed to facilitating the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and to deliver the food security that every person deserves,” Guterres said on Monday.

Ukraine urges EU to end restrictions

Separately, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the European Union on Monday to ensure that an “unacceptable and clearly non-European” ban on Ukrainian grain imports to five countries is lifted by a September 15 deadline.

The five central European countries want the EU ban extended at least until the end of the year. The ban is set to expire on September 15.

In his nightly video address, delivered after a meeting with government officials, Zelenskyy said there could be no question of extending the restrictions beyond the deadline.

“We believe that the European side will fulfill its obligations regarding this date, when the temporary restrictions will cease to apply,” Zelenskyy said.

“Any extension of these restrictions is entirely unacceptable and clearly un-European. Europe has the institutional capacity to act more rationally than closing this or that border to this or that type of good.”

Ukraine, he said, was “actively working with everyone to find a solution that is in line with the spirit of our Europe.”

The president had earlier written on the Telegram messaging app that any extension was “unacceptable in any form.”

The EU in May allowed Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, while permitting transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere.

The countries include some of Kyiv’s staunchest diplomatic supporters in its war against Moscow, but they say inflows of Ukrainian grain have hurt their farming sectors.

Poland will not lift the ban on September 15 even if the EU does not agree on its extension, its prime minister said last week.

Read more:

Russia will continue efforts to provide Africa with grain supplies, Putin says

Black Sea grain deal can operate without Russia, Zelenskyy says

Hungary bans import of honey, certain meat products from Ukraine until June 30

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