Ukrainian Black Sea Grain Export Agreement extended

A deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain to world markets despite Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has been extended, the United Nations and Ukraine’s and Turkey’s governments said on Saturday.

The Black Sea Grains Initiative, agreed in July under the auspices of the United Nations and with Turkish mediation, has allowed Ukraine to ship 25 million tons of grains and cooking oils, easing pressure on global food prices.

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister in charge of infrastructure, said in a tweet that the deal had been extended by 120 days.

However, Moscow said it had only agreed to a 60-day extension. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova republished a letter she sent to the United Nations earlier this week and said she was only willing to extend beyond 60 days if there was “tangible progress” in the free flow of Russian food and fertilizers to world markets.

The UN confirmed the deal was extended but did not specify for how long, as did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“The grain corridor deal was supposed to expire today,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Turkish city of Çannakale, Reuters reported. “As a result of our discussions with the two sides, we have secured an extension of this deal.”

The original agreement, struck last year, said it would automatically continue for 120 days if neither party objects. Ukraine, Turkey and the UN supported a full extension. Kiev says a 60-day extension creates too much uncertainty for grain traders and shippers.

The deal was renewed once in November. It allows the export of commercial food 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 fertilizer feedstock, from Tolyatti in central Russia to Odessa for export. It has also called for an easing of alleged Western restrictions on Russian grain exports, although these are not backed by sanctions.

The initiative has been a lifeline for Ukrainian farmers and grain traders, as alternative export routes via rail and barge have far less capacity and are much more expensive.

Ships will be escorted out of approved ports to avoid mines and then follow an agreed humanitarian corridor south towards Turkey.

Ukrainian officials have complained that Moscow has undermined the deal by ordering its officials to delay inspections of Ukrainian ships as they leave the Black Sea bound for the Bosphorus. Russian inspectors were ordered to work shorter hours and longer hours with each ship, delaying dozens of ships for weeks, Kiev claimed.

“The Black Sea Grains Initiative, together with the Memorandum of Understanding to promote Russian food and fertilizers on world markets, is crucial for global food security, especially for developing countries,” the UN said.

“We remain strongly committed to both agreements and call on all sides to redouble their efforts to fully implement them.” Ukrainian Black Sea Grain Export Agreement extended

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