Two senior UN officials held talks with Russian officials on Friday about the Black Sea grain and fertilizer export agreements eight days before one expired.
Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths and the President of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Rebecca Greenspan met with a high-level delegation from Moscow led by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin.
“The discussions focused on the progress made in facilitating the unhindered export of food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from the Russian Federation to world markets,” the United Nations said. in a note.
“The team of the United Nations outlined the measures taken to facilitate payments and ensure the shipment and access of grain and fertilizers to EU ports, among other things. “
The two agreements were brokered by the United Nations and Turkey on 22 July.
The former allows for the export of Ukrainian wheat after being disrupted by the Russian attack, while the latter concerns the export of Russian food and fertilizers despite Western sanctions imposed on Moscow after the invasion.
The wheat deal is valid for 120 days and expires on November 19, and the United Nations is looking to extend it for a year.
But Moscow has not yet revealed whether it will agree to the extension, after complaining about the non-compliance with the second agreement on the exemption from sanctions for its fertilizer exports, which extends for three years.
The United Nations added in its statement that “it calls on all actors to accelerate the removal of all remaining obstacles to the export and transfer of fertilizers to the countries most in need”.
Ukraine is one of the largest grain producers in the world and the Russian invasion prevented the export of 20 million tons of grain blocked in its ports until a safe passage agreement was concluded.
As of Thursday, 10.2 million tons of wheat and other food items had been exported from Ukraine under the deal, easing concerns over a worsening global food security crisis.
For its part, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned of potentially very worrying repercussions on global food security if the agreement is not extended.
“We see this as an important initiative that has improved food availability,” said Boubacar Ben Belhassen, FAO Director of Trade and Markets.
Belhassen added: “If the scenario that nobody wants to see occurs and the deal ends, I think the situation could be very difficult and the repercussions could be very serious.”
Ben Belhassen referred in in particular to global food security, the prices and availability of basic foodstuffs.
The official pointed out that prices will rise in the short term, in particularly those of wheat, corn and oil of semi of sunflower, while the availability of cereals on the global market will decrease.
Significant repercussions could occur for countries dependent on imports from the Black Sea, in particular in Middle East and North Africa.
Boubacar Ben Belhassen also warned of the effects on Ukraine if the deal was not extended.
He explained that the wheat deal has so far allowed Ukraine to export its stocks of last winter’s crop, easing the pressure on storage capacity.
He added that exports have provided income to farmers in the war-torn country, allowing them to make decisions about future investments and sow the next crop.
Meanwhile, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank announced on Friday one billion euros in support of Ukraine’s grain export efforts.
This support is aimed at improving and expanding “solidarity corridors”, which are export routes via land to EU ports.
One of the objectives of the support is to reduce waiting times for trucks and trains crossing Poland and Romania from Moldova and Ukraine.
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