Friday, May 24, 2024

Russia agrees to renew Ukraine Black Sea grain deal for 60 days

(Al Jazeera Media Network) Russia has agreed to extend a deal that has allowed Ukraine to ship grain through the Black Sea to parts of the world struggling with hunger, a boost to global food security after the more-than-year-old war drove up prices.

“I want to give good news,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday in a televised speech. “With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends and the contribution of our Ukrainian friends, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has been extended by another two months.”

Senior officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations met in Istanbul last week and continued talks to discuss the Black Sea deal and its future.

Turkey and the UN brokered the breakthrough accord with the warring sides last summer, which came with a separate agreement to facilitate shipments of Russian food and fertilizer that Moscow insists has not been applied.

Russia had threatened to bow out if its concerns were not ironed out by Thursday. Such brinkmanship isn’t new; with a similar extension in the balance in March, Russia unilaterally decided to renew the deal for a similar 60 days instead of the 120 days outlined in the agreement.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the deal had been extended to help countries in need, but added that Russia’s overall assessment of the agreement “has not changed.”

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said, “We welcome the continuation of the initiative, but emphasize that it must work effectively.”

“We hope that our partners will do their best to get the grain deal to fully work for the world’s food security, and that Russia will eventually stop using food as a weapon and blackmail,” he added.

While Russia’s exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to western sanctions due to its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have become a barrier to shipments.

The United States has rejected Russia’s claims about its difficulty exporting goods.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “It is exporting grain and fertilizer at the same levels, if not higher, than before the full-scale invasion.”

About 30.3 million tonnes of grain have been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, including 625,000 tonnes in World Food Program vessels for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.

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