Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Saturday that the deal between Russia and Ukraine allowing the export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has been extended.
“This deal is of vital importance for the global food supply,” Erdogan said. “I thank Russia and Ukraine, who didn’t spare their efforts for a new extension, as well as the United Nations secretary general.”
The deal was first signed in July and was brokered by Turkey and the UN. It has been a success in allowing safe passage for grain ships through Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that had been heavily mined when Russia first launched its invasion. According to Al Jazeera, over 11 million tons of agricultural products shipped from three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports under the deal.
Russian and Ukrainian officials gave conflicting claims on how long the extension will last. Moscow said it will last for 60 days, while Kyiv said the deal will be extended for 120 days. The agreement was renewed back in November for a 120-day period, but Moscow said it opted for 60 days this time because it’s not happy with other aspects of the deal.
Part of the agreement was a pledge by the UN to work to ease Western sanctions that impact shipments of Russian agricultural goods. Moscow says not enough has been done to facilitate the export of Russian goods, including fertilizer.
“If Brussels, Washington and London are genuinely interested to continue the export of food from Ukraine through the maritime humanitarian corridor, then they have two months to exempt from their sanctions the entire chain of operations which accompany the Russian agricultural sector,” Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said Friday.
US and other Western sanctions technically have exemptions on Russian agricultural goods. But the restrictions still impede the deliveries because of slowdowns due to inspections and because companies decline to do any business with Moscow over concerns of running afoul of sanctions.