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UN chief says he spoke with Putin about expanding Black Sea export deal

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Sep 15, 2022 - 08:45 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about expanding a recently-brokered deal that opened Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to grain exports.

Putin has threatened to restrict what is known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative after it was signed in July to alleviate a global food crisis. Since the first vessel sailed under the deal on Aug. 1, more than 120 ships have carried over 2.5 million tons of agricultural products through the grain corridor.

The Russian president has accused Europe of taking nearly all of the foodstuffs being exported, though the UN has said about 30% has flown to low and lower-middle income countries, including two ships chartered by the World Food Program for the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

A third ship chartered by the organization is being loaded to go to Djibouti while a fourth will be arriving to go to Afghanistan.

Guterres said that during his call with Putin Wednesday morning, the leaders discussed increasing the deal’s scope, including having it cover Russian fertilizer exports via the same channel.

“In 2022, we have no lack of foods, we have a problem of distribution,” he told reporters at the UN’s New York headquarters. “If we don’t normalize the fertilizer markets, we will have a problem in 2023.”

Guterres said that there are already reports from West Africa and other parts of the world that this year’s crop cultivation is less than in 2021, saying that is “the reason why I strongly appeal to remove all obstacles to the exports of Russian fertilizers that are not, I repeat that are not, subject to sanctions.”

The US and its allies have imposed myriad sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its war against Ukraine, now in its seventh month. But Washington has repeatedly maintained that its economic penalties do not affect exports of Russian fertilizers.

Pakistan floods ‘heartbreaking’

Guterres recently visited flood-ravaged Pakistan where torrential rains led to the deaths of over 1,450 people with over one-third of the country remaining under water.

“The UN is fully mobilized to support Pakistan, but Pakistan needs a massive inflow of financial resources,” he said.

“My appeal to countries that have financial capacity is not to lose one moment in providing Pakistan with the financial resources that are necessary for the gigantic tasks that are in front of us, for still avoiding the worst and at the same time for relief, recovery and reconstruction at a scale that is unimaginable. And I have never seen anything similar anywhere in the world,” he added.

Monsoon season in Pakistan, like in other countries in the region, usually results in heavy rains, but this year has been the wettest since 1961.

Destructive rains and floods have also washed away 12,418 kilometers (7,716 miles) of roads, 390 bridges and buildings across the South Asian nuclear country, which is already grappling with political and economic turmoil.

Over 33 million of the country’s approximately 220 million population have been affected by the raging floods, causing a staggering loss of around $30 billion to an already weak infrastructure.

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