Ukraine-Russia grain deal could be extended to ceasefire: Schroeder


Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, an ally of Putin, says Moscow wants to negotiate a solution to the conflict.

The Ukraine-Russia deal to unblock Ukrainian grain exports could offer a way out of a possible ceasefire in the five-month conflict, said former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told Stern and RTL/ntv broadcasters on Wednesday, adding that he met Putin in Moscow last week.

“A first success is the grain deal, which may be slowly extended to a ceasefire,” he said.

The Razoni, the first grain transport ship to leave Ukraine’s wartime ports with more than 26,000 tons of corn, anchored safely off the Turkish coast on Tuesday.

An inspection team of Turkish, Ukrainian, Russian and UN officials – working under the Joint Control Center (JCC) – began inspecting the ship on Wednesday.

After the checks have been completed, the ship will sail towards the Lebanese city of Tripoli.

The easing of the Russian blockade has raised hopes that a growing food crisis, in which millions around the world are starving, can be thwarted.

When the first cargo reaches its final destination without any obstacles, 16 other ships are expected to leave Ukraine to export grain to the world market.

The move was made possible earlier this month when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed agreements with UN and Turkish officials on reopening blocked supply routes in the Black Sea.

Previously, Kiev and Moscow had blamed each other for the crisis.

Schroeder also said that solutions to problems such as Crimea can be found over time, “maybe not more than 99 years, like Hong Kong, but in the next generation”.

He said an alternative to NATO membership for Ukraine could be armed neutrality, like Austria. However, the future of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the scene of fierce fighting, was more complicated, he said.

“A solution will have to be found based on the Swiss cantonal model,” he said, adding that it would have to be looked at whether Putin would go back to a pre-war “line of contact” in a ceasefire.

Schroeder, chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has criticized the war in Ukraine but refused to condemn Putin, who he still calls a close personal friend.

Distancing himself from Putin now would not help the situation, he said.

Schroeder has been increasingly mocked in Germany for his pro-Russian stance and has been stripped of his right to government-funded office.

Schroeder, a champion of the Nord Stream pipeline that carries Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, chairs the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG, a pipeline operator majority-owned by Russia’s Gazprom, according to the professional networking website LinkedIn.

After fierce criticism, Schroeder stepped down from the board of directors of Russian state oil company Rosneft in May and declined to be nominated for a board position at Gazprom.

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