By Michelle Nichols
If Russia does not agree to extend an agreement to export grain and fertilizer from Ukrainian ports, it is unlikely that Western governments will continue to cooperate with UN officials who help Moscow with the exports, the United Nations aid agency said on Friday.
Russia in 2010 It has threatened to terminate the deal, which expires on July 17, because several demands to export its own grain and fertilizer have not been met. The last three ships to sail under the deal are loading cargo at the Ukrainian port of Odesa and are expected to depart on Monday.
“The world has seen the value of the Black Sea Initiative… this is not something you joke about,” UN chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.
The United Nations and Turkey launched the Black Sea Grains Initiative with Russia and Ukraine in July 2022 to help address the global food crisis exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor and the closure of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the deal with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday.
“After July 17, we are working on how long we can extend (the agreement). Our hope is that it will be extended not every two months, but once every three months. We will try and try to extend the duration to two years,” Erdogan said in a joint press conference with Zelensky. He said.
Zelensky said the Black Sea Treaty is important for fighting world hunger.
“The life of the grain corridor and the lives of other people is important for us to take action that does not depend on the feelings of the President of the Russian Federation,” Zelensky said.
During the event, more than 32 million tons of corn, wheat and other grains were exported by Ukraine. Russia complains that it has not reached out to poor countries enough, but the United Nations argues that it has benefited these states by helping to reduce global food prices by more than 20 percent.
Griffiths is the UN’s top official on the Ukraine Black Sea deal, while Rebecca Greenspan, the UN’s top trade official, is working to ease Russian food and fertilizer exports.
Greenspan hopes to travel to Moscow before July 17 and Griffiths hopes to meet with the parties next week in Istanbul, where the joint coordination center of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials will implement the Black Sea Agreement.
Ammonia pipeline damage
Greenspan has been working with the United States, the European Union, Britain and others to facilitate Russian exports. Russia describes the Black Sea Treaty and its own export facilitation agreement as a package.
If the Black Sea Treaty is not extended by Moscow, any Western cooperation with UN officials on Russian exports could be lost, Griffiths said.
A three-year memorandum of understanding was signed at the same time in which UN officials agreed to help Russia with food and fertilizer exports to persuade Russia to agree to the Black Sea Treaty.
In the year Russian exports of food and fertilizer after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine are not subject to Western sanctions, but Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance are a barrier to shipments.
Russian interests include continuing Black Sea ammonia exports and linking the Russian Agricultural Bank to the Swift payment system. The Black Sea Agreement allows for the export of ammonia – a key ingredient in nitrate fertilizer – but none has been exported.
The pipeline, which once carried up to 2.5 million tons of ammonia annually to the Ukrainian port of Pivdenny on the Black Sea from Togliatti in western Russia for international export, has been idle since the war began.
Griffiths, which said it had been damaged in three locations last month, had asked the United Nations to review the team. He said that both sides are interested, but a team has not been deployed yet because the damage to the pipeline is in a war zone.
He said that if it could be repaired, it would be necessary to prepare for war. At 2,470 kilometers (1,534 miles), the ammonia line is the longest, according to the International Energy Agency.
“So there are a lot of obstacles to making that real hope right away,” Griffiths said.
As the expiration date nears, the Black Sea Grains Agreement is stalling.
No new ships have been registered to sail to Ukraine since June 26. Under the agreement, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey have allowed the ships to sail and all ships will be inspected by a joint team of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, additional reporting by Khan Sezer in Istanbul and Elaine Monaghan in Washington and Oleksandr Kozukuhar in Kiev; Editing by Doina Chiaku and Grant McCall)