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Amid war, UN chief in Ukraine to talk on Black Sea grain deal renewal

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UN chief Antonio Guterres arrived in war-torn Ukraine Tuesday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his third trip since Russia’s full-scale invasion, the United Nations announced.

New Delhi,UPDATED: Mar 8, 2023 03:01 IST

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Photo: AP/File)

By Reuters:

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Wednesday to discuss extending a deal with Moscow that allows the Black Sea export of Ukraine grains amid Russia’s war in the country.

“The Secretary-General has just arrived in Poland on his way to Ukraine,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday, adding that Guterres will discuss the continuation of the deal “in all its aspects and other pertinent issues.”

The 120-day deal, initially brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July and extended in November, will be renewed on March 18 if no party objects. Russia has signalled that obstacles to its own agricultural exports need to be removed before it lets the Ukraine’s Black Sea grain deal continue.

To help convince Russia to allow Ukraine to resume Black Sea grain exports in July last year, a three-year deal was also struck in which the United Nations agreed to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.

Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of grains and fertilizers.

Western powers have hit Russia with tough sanctions over its invasion of neighboring Ukraine more than one year ago. While Russia’s food and fertilizer exports are not subject to sanctions, Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are a “barrier” to such shipments.

ALSO READ | Not optimistic about possibility of effective peace talks in Ukraine war in immediate future: UN chief

Guterres is traveling with U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths and senior U.N. trade official Rebeca Grynspan. Griffiths led negotiations on the Ukraine Black Sea deal, while Grynspan is working to facilitate Russia’s food and fertilizer exports.

Guterres is due back in New York on Thursday, Dujarric said. It is Guterres’ third visit to Ukraine in the past year.

Ukraine has so far exported more than 23 million tonnes of mainly corn and wheat under the deal, according to the United Nations. The top primary destinations for shipments have been China, Spain, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that Ankara was “working hard for the smooth implementation and further extension of the Black Sea grain deal.”

Cavusoglu’s remarks pushed U.S. and wheat futures down sharply on Monday on expectations serious efforts were being made to renew the deal, which in turn would higher volumes of grains could be available on world markets in coming months.

ALSO READ | Top UN human rights body looks to chastise Russia for war crimes in Ukraine

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