UN Seeking Extension Of Grain, Fertilizer Deals Despite Negative Signals From Russia

UN seeking extension of grain, fertilizer deals despite negative signals from Russia

UNITED NATIONS, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 8th Jul, 2023 ) :The food and fertilizer export deals brokered by the United Nations last year with Ukraine and Russia have played an "indispensable role" in supporting global food security and must continue, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday.

In a statement issued by his Deputy Spokesperson, the secretary-general reiterated "the importance of full and continued implementation" of the agreements signed last July in Istanbul, known as the Black Sea Initiative � allowing Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs safe passage to world markets � and the Memorandum of Understanding with Moscow over fertilizer exports.

Russia is still weighing up if it will continue to be a part of the deal, agreed with Ukraine and administered along with the UN and Turkiye, past a deadline of 17 July.

Last May, Russia had agreed to a 60-day extension, and the UN has been leading negotiations to ensure its continuation. Moscow has said repeatedly during the lead-up to previous extension deadlines that it is not benefiting enough under the deal.

A Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul with representatives from all parties administers the deal, but in recent weeks, shipping movements have declined along with vessel inspections.

The UN chief's statement said it was vital to ensure that food and fertilizers from Ukraine and Russia can keep on heading to countries in need, "smoothly, efficiently and at scale".

"These agreements are an all-too-rare demonstration of what the world can do when it puts its mind to the great challenges of our time," he said.

"Together, the agreements are contributing to sustained reductions in global food prices, which are now more than 23 per cent below the record highs reached in March last year." Earlier on Friday, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's chief economist, Maximo Torero, said the initiative to allow grain to leave Ukrainian ports had allowed the delivery of 32 million tonnes, much of it to meet the needs of developing nations, as well as food aid for the World Food Programme (WFP).

The renewal would happen on "a critical date because it's when the harvest starts", he said. "We hope it will be renewed, and if not, then we will observe a spike in terms of the prices of cereal commodities." In a note to correspondents last week, the UN said the agreements were "a lifeline for global food security" at a time when 258 million people face hunger in 58 countries.

"The Secretary-General and his team remain fully committed to building on the progress already made and are in constant contact with a wide range of stakeholders in this regard," the Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, said in his Friday statement.

"The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to prioritize global food security," he said.

Meanwhile, A senior U.N. official said that despite discouraging remarks from Moscow, the United Nations is continuing to pursue an extension of the deal that allows the safe export of grain from Ukraine via the Black Sea.

"We hear repeated statements from the Russian Federation, saying that there's been no advantage to them and time's up," U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told reporters in New York of the grain deal. "But of course, as the (U.N.) Secretary-General has made clear, this doesn't deter us from doing everything we can to work for renewal." A parallel memorandum of understanding between Moscow and the United Nations has sought to remove obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer. While food and fertilizer are not sanctioned by the West, efforts have been made to ease concerns of anxious banks, insurers, shippers and other private sector actors about doing business with Russia.

Since the grain deal was signed in Istanbul on July 22, 2022, nearly 33 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported to global markets, helping to ease food prices, which spiked at the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

"The world has seen the value of the Black Sea initiative," Griffiths said. "This isn't something you chuck away." But exports have slowed significantly since May, as ship inspections and registrations dropped dramatically.

The U.N. said last week that no new ships have been registered to transit the Black Sea since June 26 at the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which oversees the deal.

"It's very clear that there has been a complete slowdown. It's not hidden," Griffiths said. "It's about in the JCC in Istanbul, one party saying that we cannot in all conscience start processing ships into this, if we don't know that they will get out of it before the 18th of July, and that's the reason for it." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Turkiye on Friday, where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two discussed the grain deal, among other issues. Erdogan was instrumental in achieving the deal nearly a year ago.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for damage caused to a section of an ammonia pipeline last month in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. The pipeline runs from the Russian city of Tolyatti to the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

Griffiths said the pipeline is damaged in three places and that the U.N. has offered to send a technical team to assess what repairs are needed but has not received the guarantees it needs to do so.

"It's a very active war zone, and that's why it was damaged, in our opinion," he said of the pipeline. "To get to those three places to assess damage already requires a certain amount of agreement between the parties to provide a safe 'window of silence' to allow you to get there." With the clock ticking on the grain deal and harvest season around the corner, Griffiths says he is eager to sit down with the parties in Istanbul next week, and his colleague, U.N. trade chief Rebeca Greenspan, would like to go to Moscow where she has led negotiations.