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336024

UPDATE 1-U.N., Russian officials meet to discuss Black Sea grains deal

(Adds context, Russian official)

By Emma Farge

GENEVA, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Talks between a Russian delegation and senior U.N. officials to address Moscow's grievances about the Black Sea grains export initiative were underway in Geneva on Friday, a U.N. spokesperson said.

The negotiations come just eight days before the deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July is due to be renewed. The accord has helped stave off a global food crisis by allowing the export of food and fertilisers from several of Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

Moscow has indicated that it is prepared to quit the deal, which could expire on Nov. 19, if progress is not made on its concerns. Russia suspended its participation in late October but rejoined after four days.

It said it was responding to a drone attack on Moscow's fleet in Crimea that it blamed on Ukraine. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility and denies using the grain programme's security corridor for military purposes.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths, who heads talks on Ukrainian exports, and senior U.N. trade official Rebeca Grynspan, are meeting with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin at the U.N. office in Geneva, said Alessandra Vellucci, spokesperson for the United Nations in Geneva.

"This discussion, it is hoped, should advance progress made in facilitating the unimpeded export of food and fertilisers originating from the Russian Federation to the global markets," she told a news briefing.

Vellucci made no mention of whether an extension of the pact was on the agenda.

The U.N. officials involved in the talks did not speak to journalists on the sidelines of the discussions. A Russian official said the talks continued into the evening.

In what could be a promising sign, the Dutch government on Friday said it would release a consignment of 20,000 tonnes of Russian fertilizer that had been stuck in Rotterdam port due to sanctions, following a request from the United Nations. (Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alexander Smith and Jonathan Oatis)

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