Russia and Ukraine agreed to extend the grain export deal, or the Black Sea grain initiative, for four more months on Thursday, November 17. The deal was set to expire on November 19. The announcement of its extension was made separately by UN Secretary General António Guterres and the Ukrainian president.
The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the grain deal has been extended by four months without any changes in the terms and scope of the original agreement signed on July 22, Xinhua reported.
Against the one-year extension sought by the UN, Russia only agreed for a four-month time period.
Turkey and the UN mediated the grain deal in July following global concern over the worsening food crisis, particularly in Asian and African countries which are heavily dependent on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine and were unable to meet their demands due to the war.
Under the deal, Ukraine was allowed to export grains from three of its Black Sea ports – Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. Ukraine could navigate the grain ships through its mines in the sea while Russia agreed to not attack the ships leaving with grain. A Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul was set up by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN to monitor the movement of the ships and ensure that they were not used for smuggling of weapons.
Over 11 million tonnes of food grains have been exported since the implementation of the deal. Russia has however claimed that the deal has not benefited the poorer countries in Asia and Africa as most of the grain leaving Ukrainian ports has gone to Europe.
Grain for poorer countries
On Wednesday, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov demanded, “We insist that the grain that is supplied under the Black Sea agreement goes exactly to the countries that need it the most, not to Western countries.”
According to a statement issued by its embassy in the US on Thursday, Russia agreed to extend the deal for four months instead of a year as sought by the UN after the latter expressed that it “was fully committed to removing the remaining obstacles to food and fertilizer exports from Russia.”
The statement said that Russia expects strict implementation of the Istanbul agreement “by all participants-inclusive of terms regarding the removal of trade barriers for Russian agricultural exports” in the next four months.
The deal was in trouble in October when Russia briefly decided to withdraw, claiming that its ships were attacked by Ukrainian missiles in the region. Russia claimed that the grain deal had been misused by the Ukrainians to launch the attack. Russia also raised the issue of non-compliance by the West with the provisions related to easing the restrictions imposed on Russian agricultural exports.
Guterres welcomed “the agreement by all the parties to continue the Black Sea grain initiative to facilitate the safe navigation of export of grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine.” He further claimed that the deal “demonstrates the importance of discreet diplomacy in finding multilateral solutions.”