On Wednesday, a spokesperson announced that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin with the aim of renewing the Black Sea grain deal as the deadline approaches.
“The objective is to remove hurdles affecting financial transactions through the Russian Agricultural Bank, a major concern expressed by the Russian Federation, and simultaneously allow for the continued flow of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea,” Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
The agreement expires on July 17.
Asked if Russia responded to the letter, Dujarric replied: “We know they have it, and we know they’re looking at it”.
“Together, the agreements have been contributing to sustained reductions in global food prices, which are now more than 23% below the record highs reached in March last year,” Dujarric said.
“The Secretary-General is grateful for the continued engagement of Türkiye with the same objective,” said the spokesman.
“His overriding concern remains for vulnerable people around the world, who stand to lose the most from any unraveling of the Istanbul arrangements and a likely subsequent rise in global food and fertilizer prices,” Dujarric added.
The agreement, initially signed in July of last year in Istanbul by Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine, aimed to resume grain exports from Ukrainian ports. These exports had been halted due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that began in February.
On May 18, the deal was extended for an additional 60 days, ensuring the continuation of grain exports under the agreement.
Russia is seeking the removal of obstacles to its fertilizer exports in order to agree to another extension of the grain deal including the inclusion of its state-owned Russian Agricultural Bank in the SWIFT international payment system.
Moscow also demands the resumption of its ammonia exports via Ukraine.
There are no Western sanctions on Russian exports of food and fertilizer but Russia says banking restrictions and payments impact its exports.
Last week, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths warned of terrible consequences unless the grain deal is extended.
“We don’t want to go through this every three months, It’s hugely damaging to commercial confidence. It’s damaging to the impact on food prices. And it’s damaging to the people in the global south we deal with who depend on certain amount of reliability of supply,” he said.
“We are now going through the great harvesting season.. when the harvest comes into the silos…and if it doesn’t start moving around the world, the (food) prices …will spike again.”