U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin a “way forward aimed at the improvement, extension and expansion” of a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain, a U.N. spokesperson said on Monday.
Guterres outlined his proposal in a letter that he asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to deliver to Putin, deputy U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement after Guterres and Lavrov met in New York.
Lavrov did not answer questions on his way in or out of the 90-minute meeting with Guterres.
Russia has signaled it will not allow the deal – brokered by the U.N. and Turkey and agreed by Russia and Ukraine in July last year – to continue beyond May 18 because a list of demands to facilitate its own grain and fertilizer exports has not been met.
Haq said the letter to Putin takes “into account positions recently expressed by the parties and the risks posed by global food insecurity.” He said similar letters have also been sent to Ukraine and Turkey.
The deal was intended to help tackle a global food crisis that U.N. officials said had been worsened by Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
To help persuade Russia to allow Ukraine to resume Black Sea grain exports, a separate three-year pact was also struck in which the United Nations agreed to help Russia export food and fertilizer.
During his meeting with Lavrov, Guterres took note of Russia’s concerns about the implementation of that agreement.
“He provided a detailed report on the progress already achieved in this regard and reiterated the United Nations’ commitment to continue working to address remaining issues,” Haq said.
Lavrov is in New York to chair two U.N. Security Council meetings because Russia holds the monthly rotating presidency of the 15-member body.
During a Security Council meeting on Monday, Guterres urged the continued implementation of both deals.
“They clearly demonstrate that such cooperation is essential to creating greater security and prosperity for all,” he said.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun told reporters that Beijing would like to see the Ukraine grain deal continue: “Of course, that’s beneficial for the whole world.”
China is the largest recipient of grains from Ukraine under the agreement. Zhang said he was hopeful and that China supports Guterres’s mediation efforts to keep the deal working.