Erdoğan: Russia and Ukraine agree to extend the grain export agreement across the Black Sea

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Russia and Ukraine agreed on Wednesday to extend an agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea for another two months, outgoing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in Ankara.

It wasn’t clear at first whether Russia would agree to extend the landmark agreement that allows Ukrainian grain exports to continue through the Black Sea, despite the war in Ukraine.

Russia believes there is a need for a fair base for exports from the two countries, with Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, saying on Tuesday that Western sanctions on Russia are hampering implementation of the deal.

The agreement is extremely important as Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters.

If the agreement wasn’t extended, that would mean the Russian fleet in the Black Sea blocking exports, which would deal a severe blow to Ukraine’s economy and supply chains globally.

For its part, Ukraine on Wednesday expressed its gratitude to Türkiye and the United Nations for extending the Ukrainian Grain export agreement for an additional two months.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who is following the issue, wrote on Twitter, “We’re grateful to our partners the United Nations and Türkiye for their efforts to enhance global food security… The main challenge now is to make the agreement effective by removing artificial barriers”.

The ban on the Black Sea Grain initiative has been lifted and will remain in effect until July 18.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, the official name for the agreement on grain exports from Ukrainian ports, is an agreement concluded on July 22, 2022 that has helped alleviate the global food crisis caused by the war.

The agreement was attached to a memorandum of understanding stipulating that Russian food and fertilizer exports wouldn’t be impeded.

However, Russia has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the agreement, which was due to expire on May 18, citing the continued existence of obstacles to its export of food commodities.

“We welcome the continuation of the initiative, but we stress that it must be effective,” Kubrakov said in another statement.

“It’s necessary to eliminate the problems that Russia has been making for several months,” he added.

Kiev has accused Russia of preventing its ships from sailing by refusing to register them and conducting lengthy inspections.

“There are approximately 70 ships currently waiting in Turkish territorial waters, 90% of which are ready to deliver the products of our farmers to the world,” Kubrakov said.

For his part, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed on Wednesday, the extension of an agreement that allows the safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea for another 60 days, but said that there are still outstanding issues that Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the United Nations will continue to discuss.

“The continuation of the agreement is good news for the whole world,” Guterres told reporters.

“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 at a predictable pace”.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the new decision to extend the initiative will depend on the progress made in implementing the following conditions in the context of implementing the memorandum of Russia and the United Nations, which is the reconnection of the Russian “Rosselkhozbank” bank with the international financial correspondence system “Swift”, and the resumption of the supply of agricultural machinery, spare parts and service, the abolition of restrictions imposed on insurance and reinsurance, in addition to lifting the ban on access to ports, the restoration of the works of the ammonia pipeline “Togliatti-Odessa”, and the unfreezing of foreign assets and accounts of Russian companies related to the production and transportation of foodstuffs and fertilizers.

Last September, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that the West exports most of the Ukrainian grain to its countries and not to needy countries in Africa.

Starting March 18, 2023, Russia extended the agreement for 60 days – until May 18, while Ukraine insists that the deal be extended by 120 days.

The grain deal is part of a package of agreements that includes Western countries not obstructing Russian exports of foodstuffs and fertilizers.

Moscow indicated that this commitment hasn’t been fully met, and that Western countries are still obstructing and restricting the export of Russian grain to countries in need of it.

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