Extension reached for Black Sea grain deal

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United Nations – After intense negotiations and multiple shuttle trips to Kyiv, Moscow and Istanbul by U.N. officials, including the secretary-general, Russia agreed to an extension of the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative

The deal, which will allow for the continued exportation of crucial grain supplies from Ukraine, had been due to expire on Saturday evening. The shipments from Ukraine are an essential part of the food supply for countries stretching from North Africa to the Middle East to South Asia. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and normally supplies around 45 million tons of grain, according to the U.N.  

“The Initiative allows for the facilitation of the safe navigation for the exports of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers, including ammonia, from designated Ukrainian seaports,” U.N. Secretary-General spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. “During the first two terms, some 25 million metric tonnes of grain and foodstuffs have been moved to 45 countries, helping to bring down global food prices and stabilizing the markets.”

The sudden halt in shipments following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, just over a year ago, sent prices skyrocketing and threatened millions with hunger. Under a U.N.-brokered agreement, grain shipments restarted in July, and the agreement was extended last November.

But with the war raging and Russia’s complaints about the exports of fertilizers, Russia’s agreement to extend came into question.

“The continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is crucial for global food security, as grain and fertilizer prices and availability have not returned to pre-war levels, causing hardship particularly in developing countries,” the U.N. said Monday.

Even with the agreement made, the number of days that the deal would be extended had sparked controversy and delayed the extension until the 11th hour — and remains “ambiguous,” a source close to the negotiations told CBS News.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s restoration and infrastructure Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted that the initiative had been extended for 120 days, as Ukraine had wanted. On Friday at the Security Council, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Russia informed Turkey and Ukraine that they would agree to 60 days. 

Following talks in Geneva last week between delegations from Russia and the U.N., Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin announced on Monday that Russia was “ready to accept” a 60-day extension in order to see if progress can be made on the export of Russia’s food and fertilizers, after previously casting doubt on any renewal last week.

On Monday in Geneva, Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, and Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, met with a delegation from the Russia led by the deputy foreign minister.

The discussions focused on both the Black Sea Grain Initiative — which involves Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the U.N. —  and an agreement between Russia and the U.N. to facilitate exports of Russian food and fertilizer.

“The two agreements have had a positive impact on global food security, with millions of tons of grain reaching global markets,” U.N. humanitarian agency officials said in a statement.

The agreement has been important to U.N. humanitarian agencies’ efforts to help alleviate a worsening food crisis in some of the poorest parts of the world. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the deal “contributed to lowering the global cost of food and has offered critical relief to people, who are also paying a high price for this war, particularly in the developing world.”

Thanking Turkey for its joint stewardship of the agreements, the U.N. said that the Black Sea Grain Initiative with the Memorandum of Understanding on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to the world markets, “are critical for global food security, especially for developing countries.”

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