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Russia reiterates demands on Black Sea grain deal, dismisses UN bank proposal

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov speaks during the annual end-of-year news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia December 19, 2019. (File Photo by Reuters)

Russia has reiterated its conditions for a return to the Black Sea grain deal, saying that Moscow needed its state agricultural bank to be reconnected to the international SWIFT system, while rejecting a UN proposal to reconnect "a subsidiary of the Russian Agricultural Bank" to the bank payments system.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday that Russia “maintains its responsible, clear and consistent position, which has been repeatedly voiced by the president."

“All our conditions are perfectly well known. They do not need interpretation, they are absolutely concrete and all this is absolutely achievable.”

The Black Sea deal was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 to enable Ukraine to export grain by sea despite the war with Russia.

Russia withdrew from the deal in July this year, saying its conditions for the agreement were not met. Moscow complained that its agricultural exports faced obstacles and not enough Ukrainian grain was going to countries in need under the grain deal.

It said its grain and fertilizer exports faced barriers in practice because of sanctions by the West affecting port access, insurance, logistics, and payments - including the removal of agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank from SWIFT.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow welcomes negotiations on restoring the deal. He said the deal could be restored only if the West fulfills a separate memorandum agreed with the UN to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.

Putin made the remarks after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “a set of concrete proposals” aimed at reviving the deal.

The proposal made by Guterres was to reconnect “a subsidiary of the Russian Agricultural Bank to SWIFT,” Lavrov said.

The UN has proposed that a Luxembourg-based subsidiary of Rosselkhozbank could immediately apply to SWIFT to "effectively enable access" for the bank within 30 days.

Peskov, however, said in his remarks that Russia needed its state agricultural bank - and not a subsidiary of the bank -- to be reconnected to the international SWIFT bank payments system.

"The agreements say that SWIFT should be open to Rosselkhozbank, and not to its subsidiary. That is, we are talking about the need to return to the basics, to the agreements that were in place originally and which we were promised would be fulfilled,” Peskov reiterated.

He said that President Putin “clearly said that the moment they are fulfilled, then the deal will immediately resume. But not vice versa.”

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world's key agricultural producers. The two are influential players in the wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed, and sunflower oil markets.

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