UN chief raises concerns about Russia over grain deal with Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written to Russia, Ukraine and Turkey to raise concerns about implementing a deal that would allow for the safe wartime export of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday Friday .

The United Nations said on Tuesday no ships were inspected under the deal agreed last July “as the parties needed more time to reach agreement on operational priorities”. Checks resumed on Wednesday.

“The Secretary-General has written letters to the parties and we are working diligently in close cooperation with Turkey to maintain the continuation of the vital agreement,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

The deal was brokered by the UN and Turkey to help deal with a global food crisis that UN officials said was exacerbated by the deadliest war in Europe since World War II. The deal provided for a resumption of Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea, which had been halted by the Russian invasion of February 24, 2022.

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All ships are inspected by officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations in waters near Turkey en route to and from Ukraine. The United Nations said dozens of ships are waiting to be inspected before sailing to Ukraine.

“There are different views… about the ships to be registered and inspected in the coming days,” Dujarric said, adding that there are “active discussions” on the issue within the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which is made up of Russians, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials.

Dujarric said two inbound ships and two outbound ships were inspected on Friday.

“Until recently, new ships were presented by Ukrainian port authorities and approved by all parties for registration and post-control,” he said. “This was an established practice consistent with Ukraine’s role in managing its port activities.”

“We support the implementation of the agreed procedures and can facilitate discussions on proposed changes,” said Dujarric. “However, any change should be agreed by all parties within the framework of the Joint Coordination Center.”

Entry inspections have become less efficient as Russia started to insist on a random list of ships being chosen for inspection each day, a source familiar with the situation said earlier this week.

Last month, Russia agreed to extend the grain export deal by at least 60 days, half the time allowed, and Moscow said it would only consider a further extension if several demands related to its own exports were met.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that “there is no need to comment on the further expansion of the Black Sea Initiative after March 18.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Brian Ashcraft

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