A deal allowing the safe export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea was extended on Saturday for at least 60 days – half the intended period – after Russia warned that any further extension beyond mid-May will depend on the lifting of some Western sanctions .
The pact was brokered with Russia and Ukraine through the United Nations and Turkey in July and extended for another 120 days in November. The aim was to combat a global food crisis fueled in part by Russia’s February 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the blockade of the Black Sea.
The deal was due to expire on Saturday.
The United Nations and Turkey said on Saturday the deal had been extended, but did not specify for how long. Ukraine said it had been extended by 120 days. But Russia’s cooperation is needed, and Moscow only agreed to extend the pact for 60 days.
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, together with the Memorandum of Understanding on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers in world markets, is critical to global food security, especially for developing countries,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Russia and Ukraine are major global suppliers of food commodities and Russia is also a top fertilizer exporter.
Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said Ukraine had supplied nearly 500,000 tons of wheat for UN aid programs, stressing on Saturday that the Black Sea export pact had been extended for 120 days and was an opportunity to continue helping those in need and “save the world”. of hunger.”
To help Russia allow Ukraine to resume its grain exports from the Black Sea last year, a three-year deal was also signed in July in which the United Nations agreed to help Russia with its food and fertilizer exports.
Western powers have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. While food and fertilizer exports are not sanctioned, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance are hindering shipments.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Friday that the European Union, the United States and Britain now have “two months to release from their sanctions the entire chain of operations accompanying the Russian agricultural sector,” if they want the Black Sea Grain Agreement with Ukraine. Get on.
US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, responded that Washington had made “extraordinary efforts to communicate the clear exceptions for food and fertilizers to governments and the private sector.”
In a March 16 letter to UN officials posted on Twitter by a Russian diplomat on Saturday, Nebenzia laid out what Moscow wanted to fix: allow the Russian agricultural bank to return to the SWIFT banking system and stop supplying farm equipment to Allow Russia. and spare parts.
Nebenzia also said restrictions on insurance and port access for Russian ships and cargo should be lifted, a pipeline supplying Russian ammonia to a Ukrainian Black Sea port should be restarted, and the accounts and financial activities of Russian fertilizer companies should be reviewed. released. .
The United Nations has said that while progress has been made in facilitating Russian agricultural exports, barriers remain, particularly with regard to payment systems.
Dujarric said on Saturday that the United Nations is strongly committed to implementing both Ukraine’s Black Sea grain agreement and the pact with Moscow and urged “all sides to redouble their efforts to implement them fully.”
According to the United Nations, Ukraine has so far exported nearly 25 million tons of mainly maize and wheat. The main destinations for shipments are China, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands.
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