Russia says West is 'burying' Black Sea grain deal
While remaining in the agreement, Russia has repeatedly railed against the West's approach to the deal, struck last July.
March 2 (Reuters) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday accused the West of "shamelessly burying" the Black Sea grain initiative that facilitates the export of Ukraine's agricultural products from its southern ports, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
While remaining in the agreement, Russia has repeatedly railed against the West's approach to the deal, struck last July, saying countries that have imposed sanctions on Moscow are not doing enough to ease restrictions on Russia's own exports, in particular of fertilizers.
"The West is shamelessly burying the well-known humanitarian initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General," RIA quoted Lavrov as saying at a G20 foreign ministers' meeting, in reference to the grain deal.
Speaking at the same G20 meeting in India, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia had in the past few months "deliberately and systematically" created a backlog of grain shipments while its own food, grain and fertilizer exports are ongoing.
"It is imperative the G20 speak up on behalf of extending and expanding the grain initiative to strengthen food security for the most vulnerable," Blinken said.
The current phase of the Black Sea initiative, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, ends on March 18. It will be extended if no party raises a formal objection.
Ahead of a previous deadline to extend the deal in November, Russia also escalated its criticism of the deal in a bid to get more concessions from the West, but ultimately let it roll over for another 120 days.
Russia's foreign ministry said on Wednesday it would only agree to a second extension of the deal if the interests of its own agricultural producers were taken into account.
Russia's farm sector has not been explicitly targeted by Western sanctions, but Moscow says the sanctions affect payments, shipping and insurance and therefore pose a "barrier" to its grain and fertilizer exports.
(Reporting by Reuters and Simon Lewis in New Delhi; Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Miral Fahmy and Gareth Jones)
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