TURKEY- According to a televised speech by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal has been extended for two more months, merely hours before Russia could have quit the pact over obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports.
The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hails this as “good news for the world,” as the flow of ships through the corridor had been grinding to a halt during the last few days with the deal set to expire on 18th May.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea deal for an initial 120 days in July last year to help tackle a global food crisis aggravated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s leading grain exporters.
However, Moscow had initially appeared reluctant to extend the pact unless a list of demands regarding its agricultural exports was met.
This extension is a testament that Russia now shares the same opinion of the importance of the grain deal with the other players that made the deal possible.
“This is a chance to help ensure global food security, not in words, but deeds. First and foremost, to help the countries most in need,” Russia’s foreign ministry said, confirming the extension.
However, Russia insists that the previously cited hurdles to its trading activities need to be resolved.
“Our principled assessment of the Istanbul agreements of July 22, 2022, has not changed, and the distortions in their implementation should be corrected as soon as possible,” Russia’s foreign ministry remarked.
Although Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed following the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said the deal was extended because Moscow has not lost hope that the problems raised will be sorted out.”
According to UN Chief Guterres, outstanding issues remain, but representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations will keep discussing them.
“Looking ahead, we hope that exports of food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from the Russian Federation and Ukraine will be able to reach global supply chains safely and predictably,” Guterres said.
However, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said last week: “Russia is exporting grain and fertilizer at the same levels, if not higher, than before the full-scale invasion.”
Ukraine warns Russia against blackmail
While Ukraine welcomed the extension, a senior official said Russia must not be allowed to sabotage the agreement and must stop using food “as a weapon and blackmail.”
“We welcome the continuation of the Initiative but emphasize that it must work effectively,” Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook.
The U.S. State Department welcomed the deal’s extension. However, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel added: “We should not need to remind Moscow every few weeks to keep their promises and to stop using people’s hunger as a weapon in their war against Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) released a dashboard that demonstrates the scope of the Black Sea grain and oilseed trade.
According to the dashboard, millions of tons of grain are shipped through these international waters each year, making the Black Sea region a major supplier of agricultural commodities worldwide.