The European Commission, in collaboration with the United Nations and Turkey, is actively involved in facilitating the extension of a crucial agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain from the Black Sea region.
The European Union (EU) spokesperson expressed openness to exploring all possible solutions, ahead of the impending expiration of the deal on Monday.
In July 2022, the Black Sea Grain Initiative was brokered by the U.N. and Turkey, with the participation of Russia and Ukraine. This initiative aimed to address a global food crisis exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent blockade of Ukrainian ports. Both Ukraine and Russia are prominent grain exporters on the international stage.
To ensure the seamless continuation of grain and fertilizer transactions, the EU is contemplating the inclusion of a subsidiary of the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) into the international payment network, SWIFT. Reliable sources familiar with ongoing discussions informed Reuters about this development on Wednesday.
In a recent letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed a several-month extension of the Black Sea grain deal. This extension would grant the EU sufficient time to connect a subsidiary of Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT. These details were revealed by individuals acquainted with the discussions who spoke to Reuters.
During a visit to Brussels, Guterres revealed that he had not yet received a response from Russia, mentioning that his letter to Putin outlined “concrete proposals that I hope can allow us to find a positive way forward.”
In response to Guterres’ letter, Putin acknowledged being unaware of its contents but confirmed ongoing communication between Russia and U.N. officials.
“We can suspend our participation in the deal, and if everyone once again says that all the promises made to us will be fulfilled, then let them fulfill this promise. We will immediately rejoin this deal,” Putin stated during an interview with Russian state television, as reported by the TASS news agency.
A spokesperson for the European Commission emphasized that the priority was to ensure the unobstructed access of Ukrainian grain to the global market. The EU called upon all parties involved to extend the Black Sea deal, with the spokesperson in Brussels affirming their commitment to assisting the talks led by the U.N. and Turkey.
“We are open to exploring all solutions that contribute to our objective, while still ensuring that Russia’s ability to wage war in Ukraine is hindered as much as possible,” the EU spokesperson added.
One of Moscow’s key demands is the reinstatement of Rosselkhozbank’s access to SWIFT, which was suspended by the EU in June 2022 due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of the same year.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, urged Putin to extend the deal, underscoring that “the ball is in President Putin’s court, and the world is watching.”
Russia has threatened to withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal, citing unmet demands related to its own grain and fertilizer exports abroad. Currently, the final ship operating under the Black Sea agreement is loading cargo at the Ukrainian port of Odesa, with the deadline fast approaching on Monday.
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