Russia’s Lavrov doesn’t reject UN bid to revive Black Sea deal, but says unrealistic

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Russia's Lavrov doesn't reject UN bid to revive Black Sea deal, but says unrealistic © Reuters. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 23, 2023. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Michelle Nichols and Gabriela Baczynska

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday portrayed the United States and Europe as “looking down” on the rest of the world amid a battle to win over developing countries, and said that while Moscow does not reject U.N. efforts to revive a Black Sea (NYSE:) grain deal, a recent proposal was unrealistic.

Lavrov spoke after a week of intense global diplomacy at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, where Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – attending in person – and Western allies sought to shore up support for Kyiv. Lavrov said he met with more than 30 countries during the week.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 the United Nations blamed the war for worsening a global food crisis and a new diplomatic frontline emerged, with Moscow and Kyiv fighting to win over those hit hardest: poor and developing countries.

In an address to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, Lavrov described “a struggle between the global majority … and between the few who wield mere colonial methods of subjugation in order to maintain their domination which is slipping through their hands.”

A landmark deal – brokered by the U.N. and Turkey in July 2022 – offered a small reprieve in the food crisis by allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain and bringing down global prices, but Russia quit the two months ago, complaining that not enough was being done to improve its own exports.

‘NOT REALISTIC’

In a letter to Lavrov last month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlined four measures the U.N. could immediately move on if there was an understanding that Russia would agree to a resumption of the Black Sea grain deal.

“We explained to the Secretary-General why his proposals won’t work. We don’t reject them. They’re simply not realistic. They cannot be implemented,” Lavrov told a news conference at the United Nations after his General Assembly address.

Ukraine and Russia are both major grain exporters and Moscow is also a big supplier of fertilizer to the world.

The U.N. proposals rely on the goodwill of Western countries and the private sector. But after Moscow quit the deal it carried out repeated air strikes on Ukrainian ports and grain stores, which Guterres said this week was undermining U.N. efforts to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.

Lavrov also told reporters that a 10-point peace plan promoted by Kyiv was “completely not feasible” and that the conflict would be resolved on the battlefield if Ukraine and the West stuck to it.

Both Lavrov and Zelenskiy, who traveled to New York to address the United Nations in person for the first time since Russia’s invasion, attended a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine but did not cross paths.

Lavrov said he would visit Pyongyang next month to continue negotiations with his counterpart there off the back of recent agreements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Moscow.

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