UN Chief Guterres proposes ‘way forward’ for Ukraine grain initiative

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres presented a “way forward” on extending Ukrainian grain exports during a meeting with Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York Monday, the UN said.
Guterres gave Lavrov “a letter to President Vladimir Putin, outlining a proposed way forward aimed at the improvement, extension and expansion” of the deal, a spokesperson for the Secretary General said in a statement.
An agreement has been in place since last July that allows Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea after they were blocked amid the conflict with Russia. The exports are vital for world food security.
A similar letter was sent to the two other signatories in the agreement, Ukraine and Turkiye, the statement added.
The accord, known the “Black Sea Grain Initiative,” was renewed for the second time on March 19.
Rather than a 120-day renewal, Russia insisted on just a 60-day extension over objections to obstacles to its own exports.
Earlier this month, Moscow said a number of conditions must be met for Russia to extend it beyond May 18.
There are no sanctions on Russian exports of food and fertilizers to global markets but the problems are related to the secondary sanctions imposed on shipping and insurance companies as well as banks.
The foreign ministry laid out a list of conditions for the extension of the deal, including allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to reconnect to the SWIFT payment system.
Supplies of agricultural machinery, spare parts and services also have to be resumed, the statement said.
Guterres said he “took note of the concerns expressed by Russia” regarding the fertilizers.
“We will study the ideas that (the Secretary general) has given us on paper,” Lavrov said in comments release by his ministry, adding that “so far, there has not been much progress.”

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