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Black Sea Grain Deal Talks Bring Little Progress

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Talks on extending a July deal that resumed Ukraine Black Sea grain and fertilizer exports are not making much progress because Russian concerns are not being taken into proper account, Russia’s U.N. ambassador in Geneva said on Thursday.

Senior United Nations officials are negotiating with Russia to extend and expand the July 22 deal that could expire next month if an agreement is not reached.

“I wouldn’t say that much has been achieved as a result of the latest consultations. The dialogue is continuing,” Gennady Gatilov told reporters.

He reiterated Moscow’s stance that Western sanctions were hamstringing its own exports of grain and fertilizer, even to poor countries that need the supplies.

“There is no point in continuing an agreement, one part of which may come out as dead on arrival. So, of course, the Russian… authorities will be very seriously considering the future of the extension of this grain deal,” he said.

Gatilov told Reuters last week that Moscow has submitted concerns to the United Nations about the agreement on Black Sea grain exports and was prepared to reject renewing the deal.

The agreement creating a protected sea transit corridor was designed to alleviate global food shortages, with Ukraine’s customers including some of the world’s poorest countries.

The early focus was on moving ships which had been stuck in Ukrainian ports for months, most of which were laden with corn and booked by developed countries.

The bulk of last year’s wheat crop in Ukraine, which is harvested earlier than corn, had already been shipped when Russian troops entered the country.

Developing countries such as Somalia and Eritrea rely heavily on imports of wheat from both Russia and Ukraine.

In a briefing for Geneva reporters, Gatilov played down the idea that Russia would use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict even though the Kremlin has repeatedly raised the prospect of doing just that.

“We will never do this, at least, we will not be the country who initiate this, so it’s clear,” he said.

Gatilov said Moscow had told the International Committee of the Red Cross that it would cooperate on arranging visits to Ukrainian prisoners of war.

“But you must imagine that we have more than 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners and sometimes it’s not possible to organize all visits. Ukrainians have less. And this is not the issue of number of visits. The issue is the quality of visit and the result of this visit,” he said.

He also dismissed allegations that Russian forces or their allies were forcibly deporting Ukrainian children.

“We are not trying to – as some mass media are trying to put it – kidnap Ukrainian children. This is not our goal. This is simply an attempt to help children that need really care, that need support,” he said.


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