Russia’s talks with the United Nations last week on a deal safeguarding the shipment of grain from Ukrainian ports had been "fairly constructive," the Kremlin said Monday, raising hopes that it can be rolled over smoothly.
Senior U.N. officials met a Russian delegation in Geneva on Friday to discuss Moscow's grievances about the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has since August lifted a Russian blockade of the seaports of one of the world's main grain exporters.
Brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye in July, the expiring wartime deal enabled Ukraine to ship over 10 million metric tons of grain from its three Black Sea ports.
"There were talks with the U.N. last week, fairly constructive talks. We have our interest in this deal, which was originally part of the whole mechanism of the deal," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Russia has been demanding unhindered access to world markets for its own food and fertilizer exports in return for agreeing to a rollover of the Black Sea deal, which is due for renewal on Nov. 19.
Moscow briefly suspended its participation in the deal late last month, alleging a Ukrainian drone attack on its Black Sea fleet in Crimea and Russian authorities have said they are dissatisfied with the implementation of its side of the accord and haven’t yet decided whether to extend the agreement, which was aimed at easing a global food crisis sparked by shortages of grain and fertilizer and escalating prices.
Moscow has indicated that it could quit the deal if progress is not made on its concerns.
"We are actually still a week away from the extension date, so work is ongoing," Peskov added.
Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter and a major supplier of fertilizers to global markets.
Ukraine's main export route, through its Black Sea ports, was blocked between late February, when Moscow sent armed forces into its neighbor's territory, and July, when the grain deal was signed in Istanbul.
Since then, Moscow has repeatedly complained that its shipments of grain and fertilizers, though not directly targeted by Western sanctions, are constrained because the sanctions make it harder for exporters to process payments or to obtain vessels, insurance and access to ports.
The U.N. said on Friday that the participants "remain engaged in the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and held constructive discussions on its continuation."
It has warned that an end to the deal could have a ripple effect on food prices, availability and security in many parts of the world.