Russia requested the meeting following its decision to suspend participation in the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative “for an unspecified period of time,” it announced late last week, in response to Ukraine’s alleged attacks on its ships.
The UN’s emergency coordinator, Martin Griffiths, and the head of its trade and development agency, UNCTAD, Rebecca Greenspan, briefed the ambassadors on the development and its impacts so far.
Many governments are concerned
“Ukraine’s grain exports are not food aid. They do act as a huge price lever, with positive ripple effects around the world. New security allegations are cause for great concern for The Secretary General and many member states are now concerned that the deal is in troublesaid Mr. Griffiths.
Ukraine and Russia account for roughly 30 percent of the world’s exported wheat and barley, a fifth of its corn, and more than half of its sunflower oil.
Russia is also the largest exporter of fertilizers in the world, accounting for 15% of global exports.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed by the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey during a ceremony in Istanbul in July. Under the deal, ships carrying grain from three Ukrainian ports travel along an agreed corridor to markets around the world.
The UN and Russia also signed a parallel agreement on the export of grains and fertilizers.
The UN is ready to investigate
Mr. Griffiths said it would “serious abuse” of the Black Sea Grain Initiative if it is used in any way for a military operational advantage.
“The United Nations has the solemn right to assist the parties to implement this unique arrangement. Acting as a secretariat, the United Nations is ready to investigate, together with the member states of the initiative, any evidence presented, if requested,” he added.
Furthermore, the mechanism implementing the initiative – the Joint Coordination Center (JCC), made up of representatives from the four signatories – has established agreed processes for any incidents and accidents.
process in place
“This is of course the reason Russia’s suspension is worrying: There is a strict process, in the JCC, to reach consensus on matters big and small even when a hot war is raging. The JCC must be, and is, scrupulously impartial,” he said.
Regarding Russia’s allegations, Mr. Griffiths stated that “No vessels, aircraft or military assets involved or were involved in supporting the initiative by any party”.
The corridor to which vessels travel “is just lines on a diagram,” he added, and does not provide cover or protection for offensive or defensive military action.
Mr Griffiths also referred to the alleged misuse of cargo ships for military purposes. he said There were no dishes in the hallway the night the reported attacks took place, and no one reported an incident over the weekend.
food on the go
Meanwhile, emergency measures were taken to release some of the cargo from Ukrainian ports and inspect some of the approximately 100 vessels that are lined up and ready to sail.
The relief chief insisted that exports from Ukraine and Russia are vital in a world where millions are hungry and struggling to pay their bills.
“Let me also say this very clearly We expect all member states to act in support of the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Federationwhich was also signed on July 22, to ensure that their food and fertilizer exports could quickly reach world markets,” he told the council.
The effect of the agreements
Ms. Greenspan amplified this message in her briefing. Since the two agreements were signed, grain exports from Ukraine and Russia have increased significantly, and food prices have fallen for six consecutive months.
However, uncertainty over the continuation of the initiative is sending prices up again, with wheat futures up more than six percent on Monday alone. She also warned of the “fertilizer choke”, with high prices affecting farmers, which could also affect the availability of other staples such as rice.
According to her, the focus was on finding solutions so that key markets could access the Russian fertilizer.
“What we read The “chilling effect” of the sanctions In the private sector, over-compliance, reputational risks, market avoidance, are still a real obstacle,” said Ms. Greenspan, speaking via video link.
“The transaction costs for insurance premiums, financial payments, shipping and transportation costs, for Russian food and fertilizer exports, are very high, which leads to Continuation of high food and fertilizer prices in the world.”
“Very intense negotiations”
Regarding UN efforts, she reported that there had been “very intensive engagement” with the US, EU, UK and other countries, as well as with the private sector.
“But, even with clear exemptions to the sanctions, there is still a lot of work to go on,” she added.
“Specifically, the need to further clarify the exemptions for food and fertilizer within the various sanctions regimes, the need to address indirect constraints to trade in food and fertilizers, as well as to improve the willingness of the private sector to engage.”
Russia: operating without us
Although Russia announced the suspension on October 29, work continued at the JCC without its participation, noted the country’s ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia.
“Our view is that what was concluded… should not be implemented without us, and the decisions made without us are not binding on us,” he told the council.
Since the Black Sea “remains an area of hostilities,” Russia cannot allow the unhindered passage of vessels “without our inspection, and we will have to take our own measures to control what was allowed by the Joint Coordination Center without our consent.”
And while Moscow is accused of causing world hunger, “Washington and Brussels are silent about the fact that their sanctions are blocking Russian food,” he continued.
Mr. Nevanzia said that through the efforts of Russian experts, shipping volumes in the Black Sea had reached impressive levels, with about one million tons moved every week.
“At the same time, progress on the Russia-UN memorandum for the normalization of our food exports is approaching zero,” he said.
Ukraine: Not surprised
Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergey Kislytsia, said yes “Angry but not surprised“According to Russia’s decision.
“This announcement did not come suddenly, because Russia has never given up on worsening the food crisis as a tool to pressure and blackmail the world,” he said.
The ambassador said that Russia has previously threatened to withdraw from the initiative and has been blocking the passage of ships since September, a deliberate blockade that has affected hundreds of vessels.
“Crocodile tears of Putin’s representative do not cover the cynicism of his masters and their complete disregard for the critical nutritional needs of millions of people in different parts of the world,” he said.
Mr. Kyslytsya was concerned that Russia was abusing the council to promote false narratives.
“Today, we once again faced Russian attempts to discredit the council by turning it into a place to spread a new batch of lies, the lie that serves the same purpose: to cover up its aggression against Ukraine, its war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as its actions aimed at exacerbating the food crisis around the world,” he said. “This practice discredits the council and must be stopped.”