Black Sea grain deal extended

01 April 20233 min reading

The Black Sea Grain Initiative -- a deal allowing the safe passage of grain exports through Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea -- has been extended following days of talks, but Ukraine and Russia disagree over the length of the extension. Ukraine said the deal had been extended for 120 days, while Russia said it had agreed to a 60-day extension.

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed in Istanbul on 22 July 2022, has been extended,” the United Nations said on March 18 in a statement, referring to the initial agreement brokered last summer by the UN and Turkey with Russia and Ukraine. The UN statement said the deal had allowed the supply of 25 million tons of grain and foodstuffs, helping to bring down global food prices and stabilize markets. The statement also thanked the Turkish government for its diplomatic and operational support of the deal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also announced that the deal had been extended without saying how long. “The deal for the grain corridor was due to expire today. As a result of our talks with the two sides, we have secured an extension to this deal,” Erdogan said in a speech in the western city of Canakkale. “This deal is of vital importance for the global food supply. I thank Russia and Ukraine, who didn’t spare their efforts for a new extension, as well as the United Nations secretary general,” Erdogan said in remarks carried on Turkish television.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister of Reconstruction Oleksandr Kubrakov said the extension would last for 120 days. Kubrakov thanked Erdogan, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, and “all our partners for sticking to the agreements.” Due to the joint efforts, 25 million tons of grain had been delivered to world markets, he said on Twitter.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow agreed to a 60-day extension of a deal. “We are seeing reports from parties to the ‘grain deal’ that the deal has been extended for 120 days,” Zakharova said in comments carried by Interfax. “We have repeatedly stated...that the Russian side has notified all parties to the deal that it is extending the deal for 60 days.”

Moscow proposed the 60-day extension citing concerns that a parallel agreement on Russian food and fertilizer exports was not being respected. UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on March 17 that it was vital for global food security that both agreements continue and be fully implemented. Western powers have imposed tough sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. While its food and fertilizer exports are not sanctioned, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance industries are a barrier to shipments. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that the European Union, the United States and Britain now “have two months to exempt from their sanctions the entire chain of operations which accompany the Russian agricultural sector,” if they want the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal to continue.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was set to last into late November and was then renewed for 120 days to combat a global food crisis that was fueled in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. The 120-day period was set to expire on March 18.

The U.N. has emphasized that the grain deal has been critical in lowering global food prices, which spiked because of COVID-19 and then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are major global food producers.

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