By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has offered Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend a deal allowing the safe export of grain from Ukraine to the Black Sea in exchange for attaching a subsidiary of the Russian agricultural bank to the SWIFT international payment system, sources told RockedBuzz via Reuters.
Russia has threatened to abandon the grain deal, which expires on Monday, because several requests to ship its grain and fertilizers abroad have not been met. The last two vessels traveling under the Black Sea deal are currently loading cargo at the Ukrainian port of Odessa ahead of the deadline.
A key request from Moscow is the reconnection of the Russian agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank to the SWIFT international payment network. It was discontinued by the European Union in June 2022 due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. An EU spokesman said in May that the EU was not considering reinstating Russian banks.
However, the EU is considering linking a Rosselkhozbank subsidiary to SWIFT to specifically allow grain and fertilizer transactions, three sources familiar with the discussions told RockedBuzz via Reuters on Wednesday. The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Guterres has proposed to Putin that Russia allow the Black Sea wheat deal to continue for several months, giving the EU time to link a Rosselkhozbank branch to SWIFT, two of those familiar sources told RockedBuzz via Reuters. the discussions.
Guterres sent a letter to Putin on Tuesday proposing a way forward to further facilitate Russian exports of food and fertilizers and ensure continued shipments of Ukrainian grain to the Black Sea, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.
“The goal is to remove obstacles affecting financial transactions through the Russian Agricultural Bank, a major concern voiced by the Russian Federation, while simultaneously enabling the continuous flow of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea,” the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
He did not provide further details on the proposal, but added that Guterres was engaged with all stakeholders on the issue and was willing to further discuss his proposal with Russia.
A Kremlin spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In July 2022 the United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea Grains Initiative with Russia and Ukraine to help alleviate a global food crisis exacerbated by Moscow’s encroachment and blockade of Ukrainian ports.
To get Russia to accept the Black Sea deal, a three-year memorandum of understanding was signed at the same time whereby UN officials agreed to help Russia bring its food and fertilizer exports to foreign markets. .
While Russian exports of food and fertilizers are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have been a barrier to shipments.
To address the lack of access to SWIFT, UN officials have asked US bank JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N to start processing some Russian grain export payments with assurances from the US government.
The United Nations is also working with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to create a platform to help process transactions for Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports to Africa, the senior trade official told RockedBuzz via Reuters last month. of the United Nations.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Kanishka Singh, Mark Heinrich and Diane Craft)