Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN announced, on Saturday March 17, the extension of the international agreement on the export of Ukrainian cereals, concluded in July 2022 to temper the world food crisis born from the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
“This agreement is of vital importance to the global food supply. I thank Russia and Ukraine, who have spared no effort for a further extension of the agreement, as well as the Secretary General of the United Nations. »
kyiv immediately welcomed this extension, saying that it had been negotiated for a period of one hundred and twenty days. Neither the Turkish president nor the UN had given details as to the duration of the extension. Ankara had previously said it hoped for a 120-day extension, while Russia insisted on 60 days.
Meanwhile, Moscow has let it be known that it has accepted an extension of the agreement for only sixty days, and not one hundred and twenty as kyiv had said. "We see statements from different parties that the 'grain agreement' has been extended by 120 days," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Interfax. adding:
“We have repeated several times that (…) the Russian side informed all stakeholders that the agreement was extended for sixty days. »
"We express our gratitude to the government of Turkey for the diplomatic and operational support," UN Secretary-General Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement. "We thank Antonio Guterres, the United Nations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, [Turkish Defense] Minister Hulusi Akar and all our partners for confirming this agreement," the infrastructure minister said on Twitter. Ukrainian, Olexandr Kubrakov.
“The main challenge is to speed up ship inspections in Turkey. This will allow the world to get even more Ukrainian agricultural products. We also continue to work on adding ports in the Mykolaiv region to the Grain Initiative and expanding the range of goods,” he added in a post shared on Facebook.
Twenty-five million tonnes of grain exported
The Black Sea Grain Initiative signed in July 2022 by Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, with the assistance of the UN, has alleviated the global food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine by allowing the export of nearly 25 million tonnes of corn, wheat and other grains.
According to its terms, the agreement was to be "automatically extended for the same period [of one hundred and twenty days] unless either party notifie[d] the other of its intention to terminate or modify it". The Initiative had effectively been extended by one hundred and twenty days in November, until this Saturday, March 18 at 11:59 p.m. Istanbul time. But on March 13, Russia, unhappy with the application of a second agreement to facilitate its own fertilizer exports, had indicated that it only accepted a sixty-day extension.
Theoretically, fertilizer exports, essential for world agriculture, do not fall under the sanctions imposed on Moscow by Western countries since the start of the war, but they are de facto blocked. Moscow wants tangible progress on bank payments, transport logistics, insurance, the thawing of financial activities and the supply of ammonia through the Togliatti-Odessa pipeline.
The UN has said it will do all it can to save the grain mechanism that has helped ease soaring prices since the February 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, home to the center of the joint coordination of the agreement organizing the control of the vessels, had let it be known on Friday that it still hoped for an extension of one hundred and twenty days.