UN says Russia agrees to expand Ukrainian grain exports

ISTANBUL — Russia and Ukraine have agreed to extend a deal to allow grain exports from Ukrainian ports through a safe Black Sea corridor.

The agreement, brokered by the UN and Turkey, was due to expire on Saturday and will run for at least another 120 days. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that he welcomed the agreement of all parties to continue the Black Sea Grains Initiative.

Nearly 11 million tonnes of grain and foodstuffs were exported under the deal, which was a lifeline for Ukraine’s crippled wartime economy and helped ease food shortages in the world.

The agreement will continue with the same provisions as before. The ships will transport grain from three Ukrainian ports: Chornomorsk, Odessa and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. They will travel through the humanitarian corridor set up in the Black Sea and stop in Istanbul, where they will be checked by inspectors from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN before continuing to their final destination.

Oleksii Kubrakov, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, on Facebook welcomed the deal. “Since August 1, the start of the Grain Initiative and to date, Ukraine has exported more than 11 million tons of agricultural products to 38 countries,” Kubrakov said. However, he added: “It is a considerable sum, but not enough”. Ukraine wants to be able to bring food out of additional ports, including the port of Mykolaiv, which is currently not included in the deal.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. Disruptions to the country’s agricultural exports due to the Russian invasion have contributed to a global rise in food prices this year.

Meanwhile, in Russia, the TASS news agency quoted the country’s deputy foreign minister as saying that Moscow was not ready to “chop up” the Black Sea grain deal, but instead wanted that an easing of sanctions on its exports of agricultural products and fertilizers is a vital element. of the agreement.

The deal was largely a success, despite the complicated logistics of operating in a war zone, including the dangers of mines in the Black Sea. But there has been a backlog problem, with dozens of ships docked in Istanbul awaiting inspection, sometimes for weeks. Russia has so far refused to increase the number of inspectors to meet demand.

Russia pulled out of the deal in October, citing Ukrainian drone attacks in the Black Sea. The move caused an immediate spike in wheat prices and was widely condemned by world leaders. Russia reversed its decision a few days after a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and assurances that Ukraine would not use the shipping lanes for military purposes.

Russia has also complained about buyers’ fears that sanctions will hamper its own grain and fertilizer exports, which it can do under a separate agreement with the UN, although it doesn’t. there are no direct sanctions on Russian grain and fertilizers.

In his statement, António Guterres added that the United Nations was “fully committed to eliminating the remaining obstacles to the export of food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation. The two agreements signed in Istanbul three months ago are essential to bring down food and fertilizer prices and avert a global food crisis.”

Speaking to reporters at the G-20 summit in Bali on Wednesday, Erdogan said Ankara was pushing to extend the grain deal for another year.

“As soon as we return, we will continue our discussions, especially with Mr. Putin. Because the path to peace is through dialogue,” Erdogan said.

Jason Beaubien and Ashley Westerman contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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