UN hopes Russian fertiliser cargo can show the way to ease port backlog

  • Next shipment West Africa-bound: UN negotiator
  • France, World Bank set to assist with exports
  • Hopeful ammonia pipeline will resume

GENEVA, Nov 18 (Reuters) - A shipment next week of Russian fertiliser exports to Malawi could set an example and help to ease a 300,000-tonne backlog in European ports, a U.N. official said on Friday as the body addresses Russian concerns that threaten a Black Sea grains export deal.

An agreement designed to alleviate global food shortages by helping Ukraine export its agricultural products from Black Sea ports was extended for four months on Thursday, though Moscow said its demands had yet to be addressed.

Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) who leads the negotiations on fertiliser, told a Geneva press briefing the deal's extension was progress, but there was work to be done to show nations how to navigate the rules.

"We have said very clearly that we are still not where we want to be. There is still work to be done and especially on fertilisers," she said.

While the U.S. and British sanctions were clear, Grynspan said different interpretations of European Union rules by the bloc's 27 countries made its system "more complex".

She said she hoped the shipment set to sail from the Netherlands on Nov. 21 to Malawi via Mozambique would serve as a model for future exports.

Work was also going on to send another humanitarian cargo to West Africa, helped by the French government, the World Food Programme and the World Bank, she added.

Moscow won guarantees for its own grain and fertiliser exports as part of the July agreement brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. But it has complained that its shipments, though not directly targeted, are constrained by sanctions.

In Friday's briefing, Grynspan said she was optimistic Russia and Ukraine could agree to the terms for the export of Russian ammonia via a pipeline to the Black Sea, without giving details. The export of ammonia, used in fertiliser, was not part of Thursday's renewal.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in September he would only back the resumption of ammonia exports via Ukraine if Moscow handed back prisoners of war, an idea the Kremlin rejected.

Grynspan also said the U.N. would aim to renew the Black Sea Grains deal for longer than the 120 days agreed on Thursday.

Reporting by Emma Farge and Paul Carrel, Editing by William Maclean and Barbara Lewis

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