After months of efforts to transport Russian food and fertilizer to developing countries with exorbitant costs, a top U.N. official said Thursday that he hopes for a breakthrough soon.
A day after Moscow agreed to renew a wartime accord allowing Ukraine to export critical food supplies, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told The Associated Press that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently met with insurance giant Lloyds to help iron out coverage for Russian agricultural products.
Moscow has consistently complained that Western sanctions, which do not target its food or fertilizer, have hampered export insurance, financing, and logistics. Analysts and trade statistics show Russia ships massive amounts of wheat through other ports.
Farhan Haq, U.N. deputy spokesman, would not confirm Guterres met with Lloyds. Emails to the insurance went unanswered.Haq said, “We are engaged with the private sector at all levels, including that of the secretary-general, to ensure” the deal to assist Russia’s food and fertilizer exports is “fully implemented”.
Last summer, the U.N. and Turkey reached two deals with the warring parties: one that permitted almost 30 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain to reach international markets through a demilitarized maritime corridor, and another to ease Russia’s exports.
Griffiths said Russia renewed the Black Sea Grain Initiative on Wednesday despite its outspoken objections because Moscow recognized its importance to global food security and low grain, fertilizer, and other agricultural product prices.
The “breadbasket of the world” Black Sea region supplies affordable wheat, barley, vegetable oil, and other food to Africa, the Middle East, and portions of Asia.
Griffiths, the U.N.’s grain agreement negotiator, said “a whole range of elements” influenced Russia’s decision. He cited China and India, which strongly favor the accord, and Turkey, which helped arrange the agreements.
A day earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is running for reelection, announced Russia’s extension.
Griffiths said conversations continued Wednesday and he would participate in another virtual one in the next day or two “to nail down the other commitments that we didn’t get in Istanbul” during grain negotiations last week.
“Yesterday we saw great progress,” he stated Thursday. “I hope we’ll finish it tomorrow or the day after.”
Griffiths said the talks include reaching agreement on the Black Sea shipment of Russian ammonia, a fertilizer element.
Griffiths added that registration and inspections of vessels transporting Ukrainian grain from its three open ports to hunger-stricken regions will be discussed. In recent months, both have slowed and less grain has left.
Guterres and Rebeca Grynspan, chair of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, are doing “a huge amount of detail work behind the scenes” to implement both agreements. She frequently visits Moscow as the Russian dealmaker.
Griffiths said, “There’s daily efforts by her and her team and indeed by the secretary-general, who recently, I think, met the head of Lloyds, looking at insurance issues.
He hopes to see “major advances” in supporting Russia’s shipments “as well as on the specific issues now facing the Black Sea, which I hope — I would like to think — will enable us to have a more dependable future” in the coming months.