UN says urgent talks underway to extend Ukrainian grain deal
As the end point nears on a crucial deal that allowed Ukrainian grain shipments to pass through a Russian naval blockade, the United Nations said it was racing to iron out differences to extend the deal, which contributed to alleviating food shortages and limiting price increases.
Russia and Ukraine are at odds over the length of the extension of the deal, which is due to expire on Saturday evening. Moscow said it would agree to an extension of just 60 days because its own food and fertilizer exports were hampered by the sanctions. Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations pushed for a 120-day renewal, as per the initial agreement in July and with a later extension in November.
The agreement allows vessels carrying grain and fertilizers from Ukraine to pass safely into Turkish waters, where they are 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 in the war. In late October, the Kremlin abruptly suspended its participation in the deal after an attack on its warships in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, but it reinstated a few days later.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said in televised remarks: “Russia reserves the right to leave these agreements if these guarantees of Ukraine are violated.
The UN is “doing everything possible” to ensure the continuation of the Black Sea Grains Initiative, which it negotiated with Turkey, Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief, told the Council on Friday. security, on the eve of the expiration of the agreement.
“Conversations are happening in different ways at different levels,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.
The Black Sea has been a strategically important flashpoint where Russia’s mighty naval fleet clashes with three members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria – who share the coast . This week, a US surveillance drone was shot down after being struck by a Russian fighter jet, US officials said. It was the first known physical contact between Russian and American servicemen since the start of the war.
On Thursday, Ukraine’s military said it had seen a sharp increase in the number of Russian warships in the Black Sea to 21 from 13 the day before.
Since the grain deal came into force last summer, more than 23 million tonnes of grain have been exported through the corridor, stabilizing food prices and easing shortages, according to the United Nations.
Ukraine is a leading exporter of wheat, barley, corn and sunflowers, but its shipments plummeted after the war started. Exports from Russia, another major supplier, also fell.
“It saves lives,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council on Friday. “The world needs this grain. It should flow freely.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Friday called Russia’s insistence on a shorter term for the deal “a manipulation for further blackmail and fomenting a global food crisis.”
Talks on extending the agreement began Monday in Geneva. The agreement on the previous extension, in November, was reached with days to spare.