Ukraine’s grain exports may once again be put in the way if Russia does not renew an important agreement on this by next week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that “none” of Moscow’s conditions that would ensure the deal succeeds have been met.
“The ball is in pres. Putin’s hands,” said Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, in response to a question about the so-called Black Sea grain agreement.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), says the UN’s partnership with the EU on these and other issues is essential to “rebuild trust with the developing world… and we do not have a moment to lose”. .
“This is when multilateralism is more important than ever: to bring peace, to protect the planet, to end hunger,” he said.
The UN’s Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement entered into in July last year, expires on Monday – unless Putin agrees to extend it. However, he has not yet indicated that he intends to do so.
The deal gives Russia more power in its war against Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly threatened to pull out because of obstacles in the way of its own exports.
Putin said in a recent TV interview that he still has a few days to reflect on the agreement.
The agreement allowed Ukraine to export more than 32 million tons of grain to the rest of the world past Russia’s warships in the Black Sea. Most of this grain is destined for developing countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Should the agreement not be renewed and exports suspended, the price of food could rise even further.
The European Commission has already introduced additional overland routes so that Ukrainian grain can reach the export destinations. However, the volume that is transported over land is a very small part of the grain that cargo ships can transport.
Von der Leyen says the grain issue is an important topic for the commission and the UN teams who are currently meeting for their annual meeting at La Hulpe, a town south of Brussels.
She also welcomed Guterres’ “tireless efforts to extend the Black Sea grain initiative” and said “Russia has a responsibility to extend it or global food insecurity will be the result”.
Other issues the European Commission and the UN will discuss at the two-day meeting are Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine, efforts to combat climate change, and developments in the digital economy – particularly the need for international “loans” for artificial intelligence.