Saturday, April 20, 2024

Leaked documents suggest US closely monitoring UN chief over “sympathy toward Russia”

The US felt UN Secretary General António Guterres was too sympathetic to Russia’s interests when renegotiating the Black Sea grain deal, documents from the leaked Pentagon files reportedly suggest. The files have revealed that Washington has been closely monitoring the UN chief.

The report emerged as the Kremlin warned on Wednesday that the outlook for extending the deal beyond 18 May was “not so great” because Russia’s own such exports still faced obstacles.

“No deal can stand on one leg: It must stand on two legs,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated, adding, “In this regard, of course, judging by the state of play today, the outlook [for its extension] is not so great.”

The export deal was brokered by the UN and Turkey in July last year to help tackle a global food crisis that UN officials said had been worsened by the Ukraine conflict. Last month, Russia agreed to renew the deal for only about 60 days, half the minimum period.

The Pentagon documents, which appear to describe private conversations between the UN chief and his deputy, show that Guterres, was keen to preserve the deal, even if that meant accommodating Russian interests, the BBC reported. The US documents, seen by the broadcaster, reportedly say, “Guterres emphasised his efforts to improve Russia’s ability to export,” and that he would do this, “even if that involves sanctioned Russian entities or individuals”.

Guterres’ approach was “undermining broader efforts to hold Moscow accountable for its actions in Ukraine”, one document reportedly said.

Another document from February claims Guterres expressed “dismay” at a call by the EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, for Europe to produce more weapons and ammunition.

The US has been scrambling to identify how the Pentagon leaks originated, since their emergence on gaming forums. The documents are as yet unverified but the Pentagon has said this week that some of them “appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material”.

Washington is also busy attempting to patch up relations with key allies around the world, including Israel and South Korea, after the leaks suggested the extent to which the US is spying on its allies.

A senior UN official told the BBC that while he would not comment on the documents, the UN was “driven by the need to mitigate the impact of the war on the world’s poorest”, which “means doing what we can to drive down the price of food” and making fertiliser accessible.

To help persuade Russia to allow Ukraine to resume its Black Sea grain exports last year, a separate three-year agreement was also struck in July in which the United Nations agreed to help Russia with its food and fertiliser exports.

Peskov stated that this deal “has not worked and is not working so far”.

Last month, Russia agreed to renew the deal for about 60 days, only if several demands in relation to its own exports were met.

Those include allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank to return to the Swift payment system, allowing Russia to import agricultural machinery, the removal of insurance restrictions, port access for Russian ships and cargo, and an unblocking of the financial activities of Russian fertiliser companies.

Moscow also wants a pipeline that delivers Russian ammonia to a Ukrainian Black Sea port to be restarted.

When asked on Wednesday if any progress had been made on Russia’s demands, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said UN officials were “trying to doggedly move the process forward,” noting that Guterres had little power.

“The secretary general has no authority over Swift. He has no authority over member states that impose unilateral sanctions. He has no authority over insurance companies, shipping companies, he can’t tell them what to do,” he continued.

“We’re trying to herd a whole group of people,” added Dujarric.

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