Black sea grain deal to be extended, conflicting reports on agreement length

Black sea grain deal to be extended, conflicting reports on agreement length
Turkish President Erdogan. Credit: Belga

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension of the international agreement on Ukrainian grain exports in a televised speech on Saturday.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov welcomed the agreement by specifying it had been extended by 120 days. “The Black Sea Grain Initiative is extended by 120 days. We thank Antonio Guterres, the UN, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (Turkish Defence) Minister Hulusi Akar and all our partners for confirming this agreement,” he tweeted.

However, late on Saturday afternoon, Moscow announced it had agreed to an extension of the Ukrainian grain export agreement, but only 60 days and not 120 as indicated by Kyiv, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Saturday.

"We see statements from different sides that the grain agreement has been extended by 120 days," Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax agency. "We have repeatedly said that...the Russian side has informed all stakeholders that the agreement was extended by 60 days."

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodogan broke the news that an agreement had been found on extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative. “Following talks with both sides (Ukraine and Russia), we have secured the extension of the agreement that was to end on 19 March,” the Turkish leader had said earlier. Ankara was pushing for a 120-day extension while Russia insisted on 60 days.

“This agreement is of vital importance for global food supply. I thank Russia and Ukraine, who spared no effort for a further extension of the agreement, as well as the UN Secretary-General,” Erdogan said.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative signed in July 2022 by Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, with the help of the UN, has alleviated the global food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine by allowing for the export of nearly 25 million tonnes of maize, wheat and other grains.

According to its terms, the agreement was to be “automatically extended for the same period (of 120 days) unless either party notifies the other of its intention to terminate or modify it.” The deal was effectively extended for 120 days in November, until this Saturday 18 March at 23:59 Istanbul time (21:59 Brussels time).

Unhappy with the implementation of a second agreement to facilitate fertiliser exports, Russia had indicated on 13 March that it would only accept a 60-day extension. Since then, the UN has done its utmost to save this mechanism, which has helped ease the price surge since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

Turkey, home to the agreement’s joint coordination centre that organises the monitoring of ships, had said on Friday it still hoped for a 120-day extension. As of March 2023, over 23 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported via the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

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