Russia rejects UN call to rejoin grain deal

Russia yesterday said it was impossible for it to return to the Black Sea grain export deal until an agreement related to Russian interests was honoured, rebuffing a call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for Moscow to rejoin.

Guterres on Monday urged Russia to resume allowing Ukraine to export grain safely from its seaports despite what Russia calls its “special military operation”, in line with a proposal he had made to President Vladimir Putin.

But the Kremlin suggested Guterres’ proposal did not address its main complaint: that there had been no progress on a related agreement that was designed to facilitate Russian food and fertiliser exports amid Western sanctions imposed in response to the war, according to Reuters.

“Indeed, Mr Guterres’ letter again set out some kind of action plan and contained promises that at some point it would be possible to implement the Russian part of these arrangements,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“Unfortunately, at the moment it is impossible to return to the deal because it (the Russia-related agreement) is not being implemented, and de facto it has never been implemented.”

Putin will discuss Ukraine with leaders of African countries, who will gather for a Russia-Africa summit hosted in Saint Petersburg later this week, the Kremlin also said.

“On July 28, Vladimir Putin is scheduled to have a working lunch with a group of leaders of African states on Ukraine issues,” the Kremlin said in a statement, reports AFP.

Several African leaders including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are expected at the summit set for Thursday and Friday in Putin’s native city.

The Kremlin said that 49 African countries have confirmed their participation in the summit.

The end of the Black Sea grain deal is set to dominate the agenda.

Putin is expected to make a “big statement” at the summit that will address the issue of food and fertilisers, Kremlin foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

“The main attention will be paid to the prospects for the further development of relations between Africa and Russia with an emphasis on our assistance to the national sovereign development of Africans, ensuring fair access to food, fertilisers, modern technologies and energy resources,” Ushakov said.

A Russian delegation led by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu will visit North Korea this week, Shoigu’s ministry announced yesterday, joining a Chinese group as the first such public visitors to the country since the My News Bangladesht of the pandemic, Reuters added.

The delegations will visit to celebrate the 70th anniversary of “Victory Day” on Thursday in Pyongyang, state media agency KCNA reported, with Chinese Communist Party politburo member Li Hongzhong leading the group from his country.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the delegation had been invited by its North Korean counterpart and would attend the Victory Day events.

“This visit will contribute to strengthening Russian-North Korean military ties and will be an important stage in the development of co-operation between the two countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

North Korea closed its border in early 2020 to all trade and diplomatic exchanges, even with its main economic and political partners China and Russia. The state media report did not say whether the visits will mark any change in policy.

The anniversary events are expected to include a major military parade in North Korea’s capital.

China asserted on Monday that it “strictly” implements U.N. sanctions on North Korea, reacting to a letter from the Group of Seven, European Union and others that urged Beijing to stop Pyongyang from evading the measures by using Chinese waters.

China’s exports to North Korea in June were eight times higher than a year before, when the secretive state was reporting tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases per day and had shut its border.

The United States, meanwhile, has accused North Korea of providing military aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine, a claim that both Pyongyang and Moscow deny.

Russia and North Korea, who both have frosty ties with the United States, have long enjoyed friendly ties with each other even as Moscow has tried to help broker a deal on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

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