A cargo ship carrying Ukrainian grain, and one other originating from Ukraine, sail at the doorway of Bosphorus, within the Black Sea off the coast off Kumkoy, north of Istanbul, on November 2, 2022.
Ozan Kose | AFP | Getty Images
A deal allowing the protected Black Sea export of Ukrainian grain was renewed on Saturday for at the very least 60 days – half the intended period – after Russia warned any further extension beyond mid-May would rely on the removal of some Western sanctions.
The pact was brokered with Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey in July and renewed for an additional 120 days in November. The aim was to combat a worldwide food crisis that was fueled partially by Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine and Black Sea blockade.
The deal had been set to run out on Saturday.
The United Nations and Turkey said on Saturday that the deal had been prolonged, but didn’t specify for the way long. Ukraine said it had been prolonged for 120 days. But Russia’s cooperation is required and Moscow only agreed to renew the pact for 60 days.
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, alongside the Memorandum of Understanding on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to the world markets, are critical for global food security, especially for developing countries,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a press release.
Russia and Ukraine are key global suppliers of food commodities and Russia can be a top exporter of fertilizer.
Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said Ukraine had supplied nearly 500,000 tonnes of wheat for U.N. aid programs, and insisted on Saturday that the Black Sea export pact had been prolonged for 120 days and was a chance to maintain helping those in need and “save the world from hunger.”
To assist persuade Russia to permit Ukraine to resume its Black Sea grain exports last yr, a three-year deal was also struck in July wherein the United Nations agreed to assist Russia with its food and fertilizer exports.
Western powers have imposed tough sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. While its food and fertilizer exports are usually not sanctioned, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance industries are a barrier to shipments.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Friday that the European Union, the US and Britain now “have two months to exempt from their sanctions all the chain of operations which accompany the Russian agricultural sector,” in the event that they want the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal to proceed.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield responded that Washington had “gone to extraordinary lengths to speak the clear carve-outs for food and fertilizers to governments and to the private sector.”
In a letter to U.N. officials dated March 16, and posted on Twitter by a Russian diplomat on Saturday, Nebenzia spelled out what Moscow wanted resolved – allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank to return to the SWIFT banking system and allowing the availability to Russia of agricultural machinery and spare parts.
Nebenzia also said restrictions must be lifted on insurance and access to ports for Russian ships and cargo, a pipeline that delivers Russian ammonia to a Ukrainian Black Sea port must be restarted, and the accounts and financial activities of Russian fertilizer corporations must be unblocked.
The United Nations has said that while progress has been made on facilitating Russian agricultural exports, there have been still impediments, particularly in relation to payment systems.
Dujarric said on Saturday that the United Nations was strongly committed to implementing each the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal and the pact with Moscow and urged “all sides to redouble their efforts to implement them fully.”
Ukraine has to date exported nearly 25 million tonnes of mainly corn and wheat under the deal, in response to the United Nations. The highest primary destinations for shipments have been China, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands.