The UN and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension of the agreement, which allows the supply of grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where hunger is a real threat, but they didn’t. confirm the duration of the new extension.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter that the deal had been extended for 120 days, a period requested by Ukraine, Turkey and the UN. There was no immediate comment from Russia, which wanted to limit the extension to 60 days.
This extension is the second. The agreement first entered into force in August 2022 and was later extended for four months in November. Russia briefly withdrew from the agreement in November, but nevertheless approved its extension.
In accordance with the terms of the agreement, the ships are subject to inspection for the absence of military cargo. Over the past few months, controls have slowed, leading to delays of vessels queuing in Turkey, and consequently a slowdown in grain exports. A number of Ukrainian and US officials have blamed Russia for the delays, which Moscow denies.
Both Ukraine and Russia are major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food products that developing countries depend on. Russia has linked the agreement to the supply of fertilizers of its own production to the world market. However, data from financial firm Refinitiv shows Russian wheat exports more than doubled in January (to 3.8m tonnes) from the same month a year ago, before the invasion. Competing Russian wheat shipments for the three months (November, December, January) hit a record high, up 24% from the same period a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data. This seems to explain the Kremlin’s reluctance to extend the deal for the stipulated 120 days: Russian UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya has repeated that Moscow is ready to extend the deal, but only for half the term.
Vasily Nebenzya said on behalf of Russia that “the memorandum simply does not work”, and that Ukraine’s grain export deal would have changed from a humanitarian initiative to help developing countries to an operation business benefiting four major Western food companies. “If Brussels, Washington and London are really interested in continuing food exports from Ukraine via the humanitarian maritime corridor, then they have two months to exempt the entire chain of operations that accompany the Russian agricultural sector from sanctions,” he said. said the Russian representative. .
The war in Ukraine pushed food prices to record highs last year and contributed to a global food crisis, also linked to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climatic factors. Interruptions in grain supplies to countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Nigeria have exacerbated the economic problems of these countries.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 345 million people have experienced food supply problems due to the crisis.
According to the UN, the Black Sea Grain Initiative enabled the export of 24 million tonnes of grain from Ukrainian ports, with 55% of supplies going to developing countries.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths told a Security Council meeting that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has led to lower global food prices. There has been “significant progress, but obstacles remain,” Griffiths said.
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