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UN Chief Guterres Wants To Salvage Grain Deal Suspended By Russia

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New York/Brussels, – UN Secretary-General António Guterres wanted to save an agreement on grain exports from Ukraine via the Black Sea which Moscow suspended following drone attacks on its fleet in the area.

Guterres was deeply concerned and was conducting intensive contacts with the aim of reversing the suspension of the agreement, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric had said without going into details.

Meanwhile, ships were expected to continue sailing through the Black Sea Corridor on Monday after the delegations of the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine had agreed on a corresponding plan, the joint coordination centre in Istanbul said late on Sunday.

On Monday, 12 ships  set off through the corridor toward Istanbul, while four were expected  to move in the opposite direction in a move that was coordinated with the Russian delegation.

The coordination centre said this in a statement.

On Saturday, Moscow cancelled the agreement on the transport of Ukrainian grain from the ports in the Black Sea indefinitely, citing terrorist attacks on its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

The Russian military claimed the drones, remote-controlled combat boats, were launched at night near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.

Moscow said that the boats first used the sea corridor established for the grain transport and then set course for Sevastopol.

Evidence of this were not initially provided.

The agreement on Ukrainian grain exports, mediated by Turkey and the UN, was reached in July and ended the months-long blockade amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

According to Turkish information, 9.3 million tonnes of grain have been shipped since then.

It had been agreed that the ships and their cargoes would be checked as they passed through the Turkish Bosporus Straits.

The agreement was originally due to expire on Nov. 19, but was set to automatically be extended if neither side objected.

Moscow has recently repeatedly criticised the agreement because its own grain and fertilizer exports have slowed down as a result of sanctions imposed by the West.

On Sunday, EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell criticised Russia’s reimposed blockade.

“Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal puts at risk the main export route of much needed grain and fertiliser to address the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine,’’ Borrell tweeted.

“The EU urges Russia to revert its decision.’’

Borrell also said that he called Guterres to discuss and coordinate actions to ensure grain and fertiliser export from Ukraine.

“Russia must go back to the agreement to allow maritime corridor for food to reach the world. The EU will play its part to counter the global food crisis,’’ Borrell wrote.

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Russia to comply with its obligations under the grain deal.

“Millions of people are starving around the world and Russia is once again compromising the safety of grain ships. That has to stop,” she said.

In his Sunday evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Russia for food shortages.

“Russia is the reason why people, in particular, in Ethiopia, Yemen or Somalia, are left with a catastrophic food shortage,” Zelensky said.

“So far, the facts indicate that the Russian leadership is more interested in exacerbating the food crisis than in implementing the signed documents.

“This, by the way, is the answer to all those who talk about negotiations with Russia,” he added.

Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Russia must withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian soil before any negotiations can take place as Moscow continued to propose further talks.

“The only realistic proposal will be the immediate termination of the Russian war against Ukraine and the withdrawal of the Russian Armed Forces from Ukrainian territory,” the  ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko said.

He was responding to recent remarks from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirming an offer from President Vladimir Putin.

If Russia really wants to talk, it must cease destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Nikolenko said.

Russian forces have been under pressure in several parts of Ukraine as Ukrainian forces stage a counteroffensive backed by Western military aid. (dpa/NAN) 

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