As world leaders gather in Delhi on Friday ahead of the G-20 summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is on a mission to revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI or BSI), in talks on the sidelines of the summit hosted by India. The deal that facilitates export of grain from Russia and Ukraine lapsed in July.
Among those in Delhi, Turkiye President Recep Erdogan, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as leaders of European Union and UN officials will be trying to work a compromise that would give assurances to Russia, for an exchange that would allow grain export from blockaded Ukrainian ports to restart at the earliest, sources told The Hindu.
The BSI, that was signed in 2022 to avert massive shortages of wheat, sunflower oil, and other commodities due to the Ukraine conflict, lapsed on July 17 this year after Russia refused to renew the deal citing “unkept promises” by Western countries.
On Thursday, Mr. Guterres said the UN is “deeply engaged” in resolving the issue, that would mean giving Russia more access to financial markets despite EU and U.S. sanctions and in return receiving guarantees that Russia will not threaten or bomb Ukrainian ships or ports exporting grain.
“We believe that it’s necessary to create a system of mutual guarantees. Guarantees that the Russian Federation is able to overcome difficulties that still exist… [and] guarantees that we will have the restoration of the Black Sea initiative,” Mr. Guterres said at a media interaction in Jakarta, where he attended the ASEAN and East Asia Summits.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials said they were unaware of any meetings on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, but underlined India’s position in support of the BSGI.
“We have supported the efforts of the UN Secretary-General in continuing this Black Sea Grain Initiative… we hope for an early resolution to the present impasse”, the MEA spokesperson had said in July when the deal lapsed.
President Erdogan will be in Delhi days after his Russia visit and is expected to take his discussion on reviving the deal forward during his meetings in Delhi.
“At Turkiye, we believe that we will reach a solution that will meet the expectations in a short time,” President Erdogan said in Sochi, after meeting President Putin. Last week, Turkey and the United Nations, that had first mediated the agreements signed in Istanbul in July 2022, had worked on a new package of proposals for Russia to consider, and are expected to discuss the way forward during their visit to Delhi this weekend.
The BSGI consists of two agreements, one signed by Russia, Ukraine, Turkiye, and the UN for the resumption of exports of grains, other foodstuffs, and fertilizers, including ammonia, through a “safe maritime humanitarian corridor” from three key Ukrainian ports - Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. The other is an MoU between Russia and the UN on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers in the world markets. Without the agreements, food inflation worldwide, particularly in African countries is set to soar, given that both Russia and Ukraine combined represent 21.9% of the global exports of barley, maize, and wheat.
“The renewal of BSGI will prevent a sharp decrease in agricultural production in Ukraine, which is vital for the world, considering its critical role in supplying oilseed and grain to the global market. Its suspension in addition to the war, is posing an additional challenge to the farmers due to higher logistics’ costs to export through alternative routes, means and initiatives” noted the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation based in Rome in a report last month.