ANKARA/UNITED NATIONS, May 17 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s Black Sea grain deal has been extended by two more months, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, a day before Russia was due to pull out of the pact over obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports can .
The flow of ships through the corridor had come to a standstill in recent days as the deal was apparently due to expire on Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the last remaining ship still registered to travel through the corridor had left a Ukrainian port.
UN data showed that the DSM Capella had left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk with 30,000 tons of corn and was en route to Turkey.
“The Black Sea Grain Corridor Agreement has been extended by two months thanks to Turkey’s efforts,” Erdogan said in a televised address, also thanking Russian and Ukrainian leaders and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for their help.
A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry said they would comment on the reported extension later.
The United Nations and Turkey negotiated the Black Sea Agreement last July for an initial 120 days to help address a global food crisis exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s top grain exporters.
Moscow agreed in November to extend the Black Sea Agreement by a further 120 days, but then in March agreed to a 60-day extension – until May 18 – unless a list of demands related to its own agricultural exports was met.
At the same time, in July, to persuade Russia to allow grain exports from the Black Sea, the United Nations agreed to support Moscow with its own agricultural supplies for three years.
“There are still many unanswered questions about our part of the deal. Now a decision must be made,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
Asked how the talks are progressing, Peskov said at a briefing on Wednesday that he would not engage in “hypothetical discussions” about what Russia would do if the grain deal expired.
Senior officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations met in Istanbul last week to discuss the Black Sea Pact.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week he believed the deal could be extended for at least two more months.
While Russian food and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have posed a barrier to supplies, according to Moscow.
The US has dismissed Russia’s complaints. US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said last week, “It is exporting grain and fertilizer at the same level, if not higher, than before the full-scale invasion.”
Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations form a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul to implement the Black Sea Exports Agreement. They authorize and inspect ships. No new vessels have been approved by the JCC since May 4th.
Authorized vessels will be inspected by JCC officials near Turkey before sailing via a humanitarian sea corridor to a Ukrainian Black Sea port to collect their cargo and return to Turkish waters for final inspection.
In an excerpt of a letter seen by Reuters last month, Russia told its JCC colleagues that it would not approve any new ships to participate in the Black Sea Agreement unless transits were completed by May 18 – “the expected date of … closure”. “.
This serves to “avoid commercial losses and prevent possible security risks,” it said after May 18.
Around 30.3 million tons of grain and food were exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea Agreement, 625,000 tons of which were on World Food Program ships for aid missions in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Nigel Hunt; Text by Michelle Nichols and Gareth Jones; Editing by Daren Butler, Mark Potter and Alison Williams)
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