By Manoj Kumar
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A senior European Union official urged Russia on Saturday to renew a deal to allow the safe export of Ukrainian grain through Black Sea ports, after Russia quit the agreement last month.
European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said Russian restrictions on shipping of Ukrainian grains via the Black Sea were creating problems not only for Kyiv but for many developing countries as well.
Russia is using “grain as a weapon”, said Dombrovskis, who is in India to participate in a G20 trade ministers’ meeting.
“We support all efforts by United Nations, by Turkey on Black Sea grain initiative,” he told reporters, adding the bloc was providing alternative trading routes, also called solidarity lanes, to Ukraine for grain and other exports.
Turkey has been trying to persuade Moscow to return to the agreement, which was brokered by Ankara and the United Nations a year ago and which ended last month. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday that Russia will return to the deal only if the West fulfils its obligations to Moscow.
So far, some 45 million tonnes of grain, oil seeds and related products have been exported through alternative routes via Poland and Romania, providing an important lifeline to Ukraine, Dombrovskis said.
According to EU Commission website, the bloc has used the alternatives routes, or Solidarity lanes, since May 2022.
The Commission launched the Solidarity Lanes Action Plan to establish alternative logistics routes via rail, road and inland waterways.
These routes have also helped Ukraine export over 36 million tonnes of non-agricultural products including iron ore, steel, earths and wood, generating about 33 billion euros ($35.64 billion)for Ukrainian farmers and businesses, the EU said on its website.
The European Union is supporting Ukraine through defence, financial and other aid, aiming to throw “Russian troops beyond international borders of Ukraine,” Dombrovskis said.
The bloc is concerned that some countries including China and India have not joined Western sanctions against Russia. In bilateral talks between India and EU officials, EU officials raised the issue of exports of refined oil processed by India from Russian crude oil, which partly defeated the purpose of sanctions, he added.
However, he said this was unlikely to affect ongoing talks about a proposed EU-India free trade agreement.
($1 = 0.9259 euros)
(Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Frances Kerry and Christina Fincher)