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19 Sep, 2023 14:54

Ukraine grain deal dead – Borrell

The EU foreign affairs chief says he is “sincerely convinced” that Russia does not want to return to the agreement
Ukraine grain deal dead – Borrell

It is impossible to revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative because Russia is unwilling to return to the agreement, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, claimed on Monday. Moscow withdrew from the deal in July, accusing the West of preventing its full implementation. 

Speaking at a press conference in New York, Borrell dismissed Russia’s demands to lift restrictions on exports of its agricultural products and fertilizer, claiming that EU sanctions do not affect shipments in these areas. “Do not look for excuses, do not look for false arguments,” Borrell stated, insisting that Russia must instead “stop destroying Ukrainian infrastructure” and allow Ukrainian grain to be exported. 

“It seems that there is not any possibility of reaching an agreement [with Russia], because I strongly believe they do not want this agreement,” Borrell concluded. 

Russia has insisted it will not back down on the conditions it has set for the grain deal to be revived.  

The agreement, which was brokered by the UN and Türkiye last year, was intended to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain to world markets, particularly to poor countries, in exchange for lifting Western sanctions that prevented Russian agricultural exports. However, Moscow has insisted that the West continued to make it impossible for Russia to ship food and fertilizer. 

One of Moscow’s key demands is that state-owned agricultural lender Rosselkhozbank be granted access to the SWIFT banking system. Earlier this month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres offered to allow SWIFT access to a Luxembourg-based subsidiary of Rosselkhozbank, as well as proposing a UN co-sponsored insurance facility for Russian food and fertilizer exports. 

The Kremlin, however, rejected the proposal. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that “the agreements say that access to SWIFT should be granted to Rosselkhozbank itself and not its subsidiary.” 

Peskov added that Moscow is prepared to return to the Black Sea initiative only if all its conditions are met, and insisted that “they do not need any distortions or interpretations. They are absolutely clear and all of this is absolutely realistic.” 

The Russian Foreign Ministry also expressed skepticism over the UN proposal, describing it as empty promises similar to those offered to Moscow in the past.