Kremlin yet to decide on Black Sea grain deal as UN calls for extension
MOSCOW -Russia said on Wednesday that it has not taken a final decision on whether to extend the Black Sea grain deal, while the United Nations pledged to make every effort to prolong the pact before it expires on July 17.
“We have not yet officially announced the decision, we will announce it in a timely manner,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the deal, which allows for the safe export of grain from Ukraine despite the conflict now in its 17th month.
Russia has consistently said it sees no grounds to renew the agreement beyond July 17 because of obstacles to its own exports of grain and fertilizers. But Peskov said there was still time for the West to address those issues.
“There is still time to fulfil that part of the agreements that concerns our country. Until now, this part has not been completed, and, accordingly, at the moment, unfortunately, there are no particular grounds for extending this deal,” he said.
Under the Black Sea grain deal, Russia guaranteed the safety of grain ships heading to and from Ukrainian ports through waters it controls.
When it was signed in July 2022, the United Nations and Russia also signed a memorandum of understanding committing the U.N. to facilitate unimpeded access of Russian fertilizers and other products to global markets.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, top U.N. trade official Rebeca Grynspan said both agreements were crucial.
“We need both to continue bringing down prices and have stable markets of food and fertilizers in the world,” Grynspan said. “The United Nations remains committed to making every effort for the continuation of the agreements.”
Grynspan said she may travel to Moscow to meet with officials before the deal expires.
To fulfil the memorandum, Russia says several conditions must be met, including the readmission of the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the Belgian-based international banking payment system, SWIFT.
The Financial Times reported on Monday that the European Union was considering a proposal for the bank to set up a subsidiary to reconnect to the global financial network, as an incentive for Moscow to extend the deal.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova rejected that idea on Tuesday, saying there was no substitute for restoring Rosselkhozbank’s full access to SWIFT.