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UN chief urges Russia to return to Black Sea deal

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on Russia to return to a deal that would allow the safe export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea, in line with a proposal he made to President Vladimir Putin.

Russia withdrew from the deal a week ago, saying demands to improve its own food and fertilizer exports had not been met and that not enough Ukrainian grain had reached the poorest countries under the Black Sea deal.

“With the end of the Black Sea Initiative, the most vulnerable will pay the highest price,” Guterres said Monday at the UN summit on food systems in Rome. “When food prices rise, everyone pays for it.”

Since Russia dropped the deal and began attacking Ukrainian food-exporting ports on the Black Sea and Danube, global wheat and corn futures have surged.

“This is especially devastating for vulnerable countries struggling to feed their people,” Guterres said.

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Guterres had written to Putin on July 11 in a last-ditch effort to salvage the deal. He proposed to Russia to extend it – with a daily limit of four ships traveling to Ukraine and four ships departing – in exchange for connecting a subsidiary of Russia’s agricultural bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the global SWIFT payment system.

A major demand from Moscow is to reconnect Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT. The European Union stopped it in June 2022.

“I call on the Russian Federation to return to the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, in accordance with my latest proposal,” Guterres said. “I urge the global community to unite for effective solutions in this vital effort.”

The Black Sea grain deal was brokered a year ago by the UN and Turkey to combat a global food crisis exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Ukraine and Russia are both top grain exporters.

Russian grain exports have increased since the war, but ammonia and potash fertilizers have fallen sharply.

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“I remain committed to facilitating unfettered access to world markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and to provide the food security that everyone deserves,” Guterres said Monday.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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