A deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain over the Black Sea, which had been due to expire on Saturday, has been renewed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the United Nations have announced.
The agreement was concluded after talks with Russia and Ukraine, Erdogan said in a speech in the western city of Canakkale on Saturday, but he did not specify how long the extension of the deal was for.
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Russia said it had agreed to a 60-day extension, while Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said the deal had been extended for 120 days.
The deal between the two warring sides, brokered in July by Turkey and the UN, has seen more than 11 million tonnes of agricultural products shipped from three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, including 4.5 million tonnes of corn and 3.2 million tonnes of wheat.
“This deal is of vital importance for the global food supply,” Erdogan said in televised comments. “I thank Russia and Ukraine, who didn’t spare their efforts for a new extension, as well as the United Nations secretary general.”
Before the war, Ukraine was one of the world’s top farm producers, and the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped soothe the global food crunch triggered by the conflict.
“Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of sunflower oil, also wheat and grain,” said Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Dekker, reporting from the outskirts of Kyiv. “What is produced here – and what gets exported – has a direct effect on food prices around the world.”
Russia’s full-scale invasion in February last year saw Ukraine’s Black Sea ports blocked by warships.
But the grain deal has allowed for the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies to combat a global food crisis. The initial agreement was extended in November for 120 days.
Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the latest extension was for another 120 days. Ankara had previously said it wanted a 120-day extension while Russia was in favour of a 60-day extension.
Kubrakov thanked the UN and Turkey for adhering to the agreements in the grain deal.
“[The] Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement is extended for 120 dayss,” Kubrakov said on Twitter. “Grateful to Antonio Guterres, the United Nations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, [Defence] Minister Hulusi Akar and all our partners for sticking to the agreement.”
#BlackSeaGrainInitiative agreement is extended for 120 days. Grateful to @antonioguterres @UN, President Erdoğan, Minister Hulusi Akar & all our partners for sticking to the agreements. Due our joint efforts, 25M tons of🇺🇦 grain delivered to world markets pic.twitter.com/4bye93iQ7d
— Oleksandr Kubrakov (@OlKubrakov) March 18, 2023
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.