According to the UN, urgent talks are underway to extend the grain agreement with Ukraine
As the end of a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments through a Russian naval blockade nears its end, the United Nations said it is scrambling to bridge differences to extend the deal, which has helped ease food shortages and limit price increases.
Russia and Ukraine are at odds over how long to extend the deal, which is due to expire late Saturday. Moscow has said it would agree to an extension of just 60 days because sanctions would hamper its own food and fertilizer exports. Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations pushed for a 120-day extension in line with the original deal in July and a subsequent extension in November.
The agreement allows ships transporting grain and fertilizers from Ukraine safe passage into Turkish waters, where they will be inspected by a joint team of Turkish, UN, Ukrainian and Russian officials.
It was a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Ukraine and Russia since the Russian invasion in February 2022, but Russia has held the deal hostage at various points during the war. At the end of October, the Kremlin abruptly suspended its participation in the agreement after an attack on its warships in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, but reconnected a few days later.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said in a televised address: “Russia reserves the right to withdraw from these agreements if these guarantees of Ukraine are violated.”
The United Nations is doing “everything possible” to ensure the continuation of the Black Sea Grains Initiative it has negotiated with Turkey, UN humanitarian aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Friday, the eve of the deal’s expiration.
“Conversations are being held in different permutations at different levels,” said UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric on Friday.
The Black Sea was a strategic focal point where Russia’s powerful fleet meets three members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria – who share the coast. A US surveillance drone was shot down this week after being hit by a Russian warplane, US officials said. This was the first known physical contact between the Russian and American military since the beginning of the war.
On Thursday, the Ukrainian military said that was the case see a sharp increase in the number of Russian naval vessels in the Black Sea from 13 to 21 One day earlier.
Since the Grains Agreement came into force last summer, more than 23 million tons of grain have been exported through the corridor, stabilizing food prices and easing shortages. accordingly the United Nations.
Ukraine is a leading exporter of wheat, barley, corn and sunflowers, but supplies collapsed after the war began. Exports from Russia, another important supplier, also fell.
“It saves lives,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council on Friday. “The world needs this grain. It has to flow freely.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Friday called Russia’s insistence on a shorter term of the agreement is “a manipulation to further blackmail and foment a global food crisis”.
Talks about a contract extension started on Monday in Geneva. An agreement on the previous extension in November was reached a few days earlier.
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/18/world/europe/ukraine-grain-deal-un-russia.html According to the UN, urgent talks are underway to extend the grain agreement with Ukraine