A deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain to world markets despite Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has been extended, the UN and the Ukrainian and Turkish governments announced on Saturday.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, agreed in July under UN auspices and with Turkish mediation, enabled Ukraine to ship 25 million tonnes of grain and edible oils, easing pressure on world food prices.
Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for infrastructure, said in a tweet that the deal had been extended for 120 days.
However, Moscow said it only agreed to a 60-day extension. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reposted a letter she sent to the UN earlier this week, saying she was only willing to extend beyond 60 days. there was “tangible progress” in unblocking flows of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets.
The UN confirmed that the agreement had been renewed but did not specify for how long, as did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The grain corridor agreement was due to expire today,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Turkish town of Çannakale, Reuters reported. “Following our discussions with both parties, we have secured an extension to this agreement.”
The initial agreement reached last year specified that it would automatically continue for 120 days if no party objected. Ukraine, Turkey and the UN supported a full extension. kyiv says a 60-day extension creates too much uncertainty for grain traders and shippers.
The agreement was extended once in November. It allows exports of commercial foodstuffs and fertilizers, including ammonia, from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports – Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi.
The Kremlin had been pushing for the reopening of a pipeline to pump ammonia, a feedstock for fertilizers, from Tolyatti in central Russia to Odessa for export. He also demanded an easing of what he sees as Western restrictions on the export of Russian grain, even if they are not covered by sanctions.
The initiative has been a lifeline for Ukrainian farmers and grain traders, as alternative export routes via rail and river barge have much less capacity and are much more expensive.
Ships are escorted out of authorized ports to avoid mines and then follow an agreed humanitarian corridor south towards Turkey.
Ukrainian officials have complained that Moscow undermined the deal by ordering its officials to extend inspections of Ukrainian ships as they departed the Black Sea for the Bosphorus. Russian inspectors have been ordered to work fewer hours and take more time with each ship, delaying dozens of ships for weeks, kyiv claimed.
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, as well as the Memorandum of Understanding on the promotion of Russian food products and fertilizers in world markets, are essential for global food security, especially for developing countries,” said said the UN.
“We remain firmly committed to both agreements and urge all parties to redouble their efforts to fully implement them.”