Russia and Ukraine discussed ammonia and exchange of prisoners in the Emirates | War in Ukraine
UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan speaks with Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Court Minister Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, his brother. (Archives)
Russian and Ukrainian officials met last week in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to discuss a prisoner exchange allowing a resumption of exports of x27;ammonia from Russia to Asia and Africa via a gas pipeline in Ukraine, three sources briefed on the meeting said.
According to these sources, the talks took place under the mediation of the United Arab Emirates, but did not include the United Nations despite the central role played by the organization in the creation of maritime corridors allowing exports of agricultural products to from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
Talks over Russian ammonia, a compound used in the manufacture of conventional agriculture fertilizers, are aimed at removing the remaining war-related trade barriers to alleviate global shortages of certain food products.
Russian and Ukrainian emissaries traveled to Abu Dhabi, capital of the Emirates, on November 17, where they discussed a resumption of Russian ammonia exports linked to an extensive prisoner exchange, the sources said.
Reuters could not determine whether the outcome of those talks was conclusive.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar told Reuters that the release of our POWs is part of negotiations on opening up Russian ammonia exports, but said he had not been informed of a meeting on the subject in the United Arab Emirates.
The deal reached in July resulted in the export of millions of tonnes of grain stuck in ports in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin confirmed on Wednesday that Russian officials would work to unblock Russian fertilizers held up in European ports in order to resume ammonia exports. The UAE's foreign ministry, defense and foreign ministries of Russia and Ukraine did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Asked about the possible involvement of the UN in these discussions, a spokesperson for the organization declined to comment.
The planned project would see Russian ammonia flow through an existing gas pipeline, designed to transport up to 2.5 million tonnes of ammonia per year from Russia's Volga region to the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, near Odessa on the Black Sea, where it would be loaded onto ships bound for international customers.
This port was closed after the x27;Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Ammonia exports were not part of the renewal of the grain agreement on maritime corridors which restored commercial transport from Ukraine.
Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the United Nations conference on trade and development and mediator in the fertilizer negotiations, expressed her optimism last week that Russia and Ukraine could reach an agreement on Russian ammonia exports via this pipeline.
Many Ukrainian fighters were taken prisoner by the Russians after the end of the clashes at the Azovstal factory in Mariupol.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly set several conditions for the resumption of Russian ammonia exports that will pass through his country, including an exchange of prisoners and the reopening of the port of Mykolaiv, in the Black Sea.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine has released official figures on the number of prisoners taken since the start of the conflict. Volodymyr Zelensky said on October 29 that Russia had released 1,031 since March. Saudi Arabia, which won a diplomatic victory in September by securing the release by Russia of foreign fighters captured in Ukraine.
Like Arabia, the Emirates are part of the OPEC+ oil alliance in which Russia participates. They have maintained good relations with Moscow despite Western pressure to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al- Nahyan, also visited Moscow last month, where he discussed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the possibility of Emirati mediation over Russian ammonia, two of the sources said. .
Russia is the world's largest exporter of wheat and a major supplier of fertilizers to international markets. Since July, Moscow has repeatedly said that its grain and fertilizer exports, while not directly targeted by the sanctions, are limited because the sanctions make it harder for exporters to deal payments or to get ships and insurance.
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