- UN Secretary-General proposes a way forward to improve, extend and expand the deal for safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain.
- Russia has signaled it may not allow the deal to continue beyond May 18 due to its demands for exports not being met.
- The deal was aimed at tackling the global food crisis worsened by Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
On Monday, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed a way forward to Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at the improvement and extension of a deal allowing safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain. This deal was brokered by the U.N. and Turkey and agreed by Russia and Ukraine in July last year. However, Russia has signaled it will not allow the deal to continue beyond May 18 because a list of demands for its exports has not been met.
Guterres outlined his proposal in a letter that he asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to deliver to Putin. Lavrov did not answer questions on his way in or out of the 90-minute meeting with Guterres. Guterres took note of Russia's concerns about its own grain and fertilizer exports. He provided a detailed report on the progress already achieved in this regard and reiterated the United Nations' commitment to continue working to address remaining issues.
The deal was intended to help tackle a global food crisis that U.N. officials said had been worsened by Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. To help persuade Russia to allow Ukraine to resume Black Sea grain exports, a separate three-year pact was also struck in which the U.N. agreed to help Russia export food and fertilizer.
Lavrov is in New York to chair two U.N. Security Council meetings on Monday and Tuesday because Russia holds the monthly rotating presidency of the 15-member body. During a Security Council meeting on Monday, Guterres urged the parties to continue with both grain and fertilizer agreements. “They clearly demonstrate that such cooperation is essential to creating greater security and prosperity for all,” he said.
Turkey has also proposed that its banks could help process payments to Russia, but Turkey wants assurances that its banks would not face sanctions. The Turkish Banks Association is working on a possible formula. China's U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said that Beijing would like to see the Ukraine grain deal continue as it is beneficial for the whole world. China, a strategic partner of Russia, is the largest recipient of grains from Ukraine under the agreement.