UN chief underlines importance of extending Black Sea grain deal

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said it is of critical importance to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative which is set to expire on March 18.

“I want to underscore the critical importance of the rollover of the Black Sea Grain Initiative on 18 March, and the working to create the condition to enable the greatest possible use of transport infrastructure in the Black Sea, in line with the objectives of the initiative,” Guterres said at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital Kyiv.

Last July, Türkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports which were paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February 2022.

Guterres said that the export of Ukrainian and Russian food and fertilizers are essential to global food security and food prices, saying that the signing of the initiative has provided for the export of 23 million tons of grain from Ukrainian ports and contributed to the lowering of the global cost of food.

He further said that the safety and security around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is also vital, noting that he believes the full demilitarization of the plant, which has been under Russian control since last March, would also be important.

“I believe the possible mediation to seek the full demilitarization of the area while ensuring the plant can return to normal operations would also be important, and the UN is ready to offer its good offices,” the UN chief added.

He also said that the UN will continue to support “solutions for humanitarian problems wherever possible on every front, such as a meaningful expansion of the current exchange of prisoners of war until it is fully completed.”

He also commented on the alleged execution of a Ukrainian soldier, footage of which went viral on social media on Monday, saying that it is “a tragic reminder that the laws of war must be strictly respected.”

“We must pursue all of these objectives, recognizing that each one of them has value in itself,” Guterres concluded.

For his part, Zelenskyy said that he and Guterres agreed on the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, noting that it is necessary for the whole world.

“It is also important to work for our humanitarian initiative ‘Grain from Ukraine’. Within the framework of this initiative, we have already managed to attract almost $200 million and sent more than 140,000 tons of Ukrainian grain," the Ukrainian president said.

He said that he is sure Ukraine, together with the UN, will be able to significantly strengthen both the humanitarian initiative and the grain initiative, which will provide even more guarantees of global food security.

He said that they also discussed restoring the safety of all Ukrainian nuclear power plants, particularly Zaporizhzhia, adding: “The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant must return to full Ukrainian control - this is a matter, not only of Ukrainian but global security.”

Source: Anadolu Agency