UN Chief Unhappy with Russia’s Stance to Halt Black Sea Grain Deal

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Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said he regretted Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“I deeply regret the decision by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees for navigation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea,” Guterres said.

With the decision to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia also terminated its commitment to facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers from Ukrainian-controlled Black Sea ports, as expressed in the memorandum of understanding between Russia and the United Nations, he told a press encounter at the UN headquarters in New York.

The initiative has ensured the safe passage of over 32 million metric tons of food commodities from Ukrainian ports. The World Food Programme has shipped more than 725,000 tons to support humanitarian operations, relieving hunger in some of the hardest-hit corners of the world, including Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Yemen, noted Guterres.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye — together with the memorandum of understanding between Russia and the world body — has been a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world. At a time when the production and availability of food are being disrupted by conflict, climate change, energy prices and more, these agreements have helped to reduce food prices by over 23 percent since March last year, he added.

“Ultimately, participation in these agreements is a choice. But struggling people everywhere and developing countries don’t have a choice. Hundreds of millions of people face hunger and consumers are confronting a global cost-of-living crisis. They will pay the price,” said Guterres, noting that there was already a jump in wheat prices immediately after the announcement of the Russian decision.

Earlier Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow decided to suspend its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“Unfortunately, the part of these Black Sea agreements that concerns Russia has not been implemented so far, so its effect is terminated,” local media reported, citing Peskov. Russia had been complaining that its demands to improve its own grain and fertilizer exports have not been met.

Peskov noted that the country will immediately return to the deal when the Russian part of the agreements is fulfilled.

Russia and Ukraine signed separately with Türkiye and the United Nations the Black Sea Grain Initiative in Istanbul in July 2022, which allowed Ukraine to export its grain and other agricultural products from its Black Sea ports. As a parallel agreement, Russia and the United Nations signed a memorandum of understanding on the facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer exports.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was initially valid for 120 days, was extended in mid-November 2022 for another 120 days until March 18, 2023. Russia then agreed to extend the deal for only 60 days. On May 17, Russia agreed to extend the deal for another 60 days.

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