Turkey announces extension of Black Sea grain deal

Istanbul, May 17 (EFE).- The accord allowing shipments of grain and fertilizer to transit the Black Sea amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been renewed for 60 days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday.

“With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends, the contribution of our Ukrainian friends, it was decided to prolong the Black Sea grain deal for two more months,” he said a day before the deal was due to expire.

Erdogan extended thanks to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The Turkish president added that he hoped to see a cease-fire that would open the door to an agreement to end the conflict that began when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, as it is officially known, dates from July 2022, when the UN and Turkey persuaded Moscow and Kyiv to create a safe corridor for transport of grain, fertilizer, and ammonia.

With an original term of 120 days, the pact was renewed last November for another 120 days.

Despite complaints about implementation, Russia agreed to another renewal in March of this year, but only for 60 days, and suggested that continuing the arrangement beyond May 18 would depend on meaningful action to address Moscow’s concerns about the small volume of grain going to poor countries and the failure of Western nations to allow sanctions exemptions for Russian fertilizer.

Upwards of 30.2 million tons of grain have been transported by 951 ships as part of the Black Sea deal, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported, citing data from the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for reconstruction, Oleksandr Kubrakov, confirmed the renewal of the grain initiative.

“The world will continue to receive Ukrainian products thanks to the efforts of our partners in the agreement – Turkey and the UN. We are grateful to the partners for their unwavering and purposeful position that the agreement should continue to work and on the terms signed by all parties,” he said.

“Almost 70 vessels are now waiting in the territorial waters of Turkey, 90 percent are those which are ready to deliver the products of our farmers to the world,” Kubrakov said, while accusing Russia of creating obstacles to the program by “sabotaging inspections and the registration of a new fleet.”

“We hope that our partners will make every effort to ensure that the grain agreement begins to work for the food security of the world and that Russia will eventually stop using food as a weapon and blackmail,” the Ukrainian official said.

UN chief Guterres hailed the news of the extension.

“Even in the darkest hours, there is always a beacon of hope & an opportunity to find solutions that benefit everyone,” he said in a tweet.

“The continuation is good news for the world,” Guterres told reporters later. “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 predictably.”

Russia also confirmed that it had agreed to continue the arrangement for another 60 days.

“The extension of the grain deal is for two months. Thus, there is a chance, not in words, but in deeds, to help ensure global food security. First of all, to help the most needy countries,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a news conference.

“Our fundamental assessments of the Istanbul agreements concluded on July 22, 2022, have not changed, and the distortions in their implementation must be corrected as quickly as possible,” she said.

EFE iut-int-cph-fjo-mos/dr

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