Grain deal extended to ease supplies from Ukraine

Published March 19, 2023
The UN-chartered vessel MV Valsamitis is loaded to deliver 25,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat to Kenya and 5,000 tons to Ethiopia. — AFP
The UN-chartered vessel MV Valsamitis is loaded to deliver 25,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat to Kenya and 5,000 tons to Ethiopia. — AFP

ANKARA: Just hours before it was due to expire, Turkiye on Saturday announced the extension of a deal that it brokered between Russia and Ukraine to facilitate exports of grain amid contradictory statements from Moscow and Kyiv about the duration of the extension ranging from 60 to 120 days.

Turkiye and the United Nations did not specify the duration.

“Following talks with the two parties, we have assured the extension of the deal that was due to expire on March 19,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in comments broadcast on Turkish television.

“This deal is of vital importance for the global food supply. I thank Russia and Ukraine, who didn’t spare their efforts for a new extension, as well as the United Nations secretary general,” he said.

Contradictory statements on duration of extension

Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 saw Ukraine’s Black Sea ports blocked by warships.

But a deal brokered by Turkiye and the United Nations in July 2022 — and signed by Kyiv and Moscow — had allowed for the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies.

Easing food crunch

Ukraine was one of the world’s top grain producers, and the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped soothe the global food crunch triggered by the conflict.

“(The) Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement is extended for 120 days. Grateful to Antonio Guterres, the United Nations, President Erdogan, (Turkish defence minister) Hulusi Akar and all our partners for sticking to the agreements,” Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “We are seeing reports from parties to the ‘grain deal’ that the deal has been extended for 120 days.

“We have repeatedly stated... that the Russian side has notified all parties to the deal that it is extending the deal for 60 days,” Zakharova said in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency.

Crimea annexation

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s annexation, a day after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him over the Ukraine conflict.

Russia said it had agreed to a 60-day extension, while Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said the deal had been extended for 120 days.

Putin’s surprise visit to Crimea was his first to the peninsula since he sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 last year, apart from when he drove across the bridge linking the territory to mainland Russia last December.

He was shown visiting the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, accompanied by the local Moscow-appointed governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, according to images broadcast by Russian state TV.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 following a referendum that was not recognised by Kyiv and the international community.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023

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