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UN chief hopeful Russia to extend grain deal

Scholz says G20 consensus on Ukraine to be 'tough ride'
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NUSA DUA, Indonesia: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced hope on Monday that Russia would extend an expiring deal that gives safe passage to Ukrainian grain shipments, saying the arrangement was crucial for food security.

The UN chief, addressing reporters in Bali ahead of a Group of 20 summit, said that talks over the last week had delivered "a lot of progress" on the deal that is set to end on Saturday.

"I am hopeful that the Black Sea grain initiative will be renewed," Guterres said.

Ukraine is one of the world's top grain producers, and the Russian attack had blocked 20 million tonnes of grain in its ports until the United Nations and Turkey brokered the deal in July.

"We need urgent action to prevent famine and hunger in a growing number of places around the world," Guterres said. "The Black Sea grain initiative, and efforts to ensure Russian food and fertilisers can flow to global markets, are essential to global food security."

Russia has said it had yet to decide whether to extend the grain deal beyond November 19, the original date in the agreement. The G7 bloc of industrial democracies has urged a renewal, with the war still raging in Ukraine nine months after Russia's war.

Moscow has complained that a second agreement brokered by the UN and Turkey on its fertilisers being exempt from sanctions had not been respected.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will head Moscow's delegation at the Bali summit, replacing President Vladimir Putin. On a separate issue to be addressed by the G20, Guterres took aim at global technology firms that he said have allowed their platforms to be used for human rights and privacy abuses.

He called for "global guardrails" to defend an open and free internet for all.

"Powerful tech companies are running roughshod over human rights and personal privacy and providing platforms for deadly disinformation, in pursuit of profits," he said.


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies would find it difficult agreeing clear statements on global issues and the war in Ukraine when they meet this week for the first time since Russian war on Ukraine.

"We are working very hard to ensure that we not only make clear, important statements on all the issues that affect the world together... but also on the issues of peace and the consequences of the Russian war on Ukraine," Scholz said during a joint news conference with Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, in Singapore.

"That's going to be a tough ride, and I think it's going to take up a lot of our time and efforts in Bali," said Scholz, who visited Vietnam on Sunday and after his stop in Singapore will travel on to the G20 leaders' summit in Bali, Indonesia.

The two stops on Scholz's trip to the G20 meeting, which come just one week after a visit to Beijing, reflect Germany's efforts to reduce its reliance on its top trade partner China and to boost ties with fast growing economies in Southeast Asia.

Expanding such ties is crucial in the face of the war in Ukraine, Scholz told a meeting of business leaders in Singapore on Monday. Scholz also said he hoped to see quick progress in the European Union's trade negotiations with Australia, India and Indonesia and that he remained open to new agreements beyond that.

Vietnam and Singapore are the only countries in the region that have a free trade agreement with the EU so far.

"Deepening cooperation is crucial because we all feel that the geopolitical ground beneath our feet is shifting," Scholz said.

Reducing risky, one-sided dependencies for certain raw materials or critical technologies will play an important role in Germany's national security strategy, he said, adding that de-coupling was not the answer.

"A world with new or resurrected trade barriers and de-integrated economies will not be a better place," he said.

The G20 comprises 19 major advanced and emerging economies and the European Union. -- Agencies

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