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U.N. chief sees progress over food crisis, but deal still some way off

STOCKHOLM, June 1 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he was hopeful of easing the food crisis prompted by the war in Ukraine, but cautioned that any agreement to unblock shipments of commodities such as grain was still some way off.

The conflict has fuelled a global food crisis with surging prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel, and fertilizer. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key fertilizer exporter and Ukraine is a major supplier of corn and sunflower oil.

"I think that there is progress, but we are not yet there. These are complex things and the fact that everything is interlinked makes the negotiation particularly complex," Guterres told a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm.

With Russia controlling or effectively blockading all Ukrainian Black Sea ports, grain shipments from Ukraine have stalled since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion while Moscow has blamed Western sanctions for disrupting exports of both grain and fertilizer.

Guterres, who visited Moscow and Kyiv earlier this year, is trying to broker what he calls a package deal to resume both Ukrainian food exports and Russian food and fertilizer exports as part of efforts by the world body to alleviate the crisis.

"As I said to the security council, I'm hopeful, but there is still a ways to go and we are totally committed to make things happen," he said.

President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that Russia was willing to facilitate Ukrainian wheat exports through the Black Sea, as well as shipments of Russian fertilizer, if sanctions were eased. (Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Simon Johnson; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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