UPDATE 1-U.N.'s Black Sea grain deal chief says 'the food must flow'
ISTANBUL, Oct 31 (Reuters) - The U.N. head of a Black Sea grain-exports deal said on Monday that civilian cargo ships can never be military targets or held hostage, and that "the food must flow" under the deal, in which Russia suspended its participation at the weekend.
The comment on Twitter by Amir Abdulla, Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, came after the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine pressed ahead with a transit plan for ships waiting to use the travel corridor set up under the deal.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, said it suspended its role in the deal for an "indefinite term", cutting shipments from one of the world's top grain exporters, because it could not "guarantee the safety of civilian ships" after an attack on its Black Sea fleet.
The move has sparked an outcry from Ukraine, NATO, the European Union and the United States, while the United Nations and Turkey, the two main brokers of the July deal, were scrambling to save it.
No ships moved on Sunday through the maritime humanitarian corridor established under the grain deal. But the U.N. said in a statement that it had agreed with Ukraine and Turkey on a movement plan for 16 vessels on Monday - 12 outbound and 4 inbound.
The U.N. said it has informed the Russian officials at the Joint Coordination Centre, which includes the U.N., Turkish, and Ukrainian officials that also monitor the grain deal, about the plan, along with the intention to inspect 40 outbound vessels on Monday.
The U.N. noted that "all participants coordinate with their respective military and other relevant authorities to ensure the safe passage of commercial vessels" under the deal. (Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Christian Schmollinger)
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