On Wednesday, Ukraine’s president and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Moscow to extend a pact that allowed Kyiv to transport grain through Black Sea ports during Russia’s invasion.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was deemed “critically vital” for the world by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy following their talks in Kyiv, and the U.N. leader emphasized the significance of this initiative for world food prices and food security.
The 120-day deal, initially brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July and extended in November, will be renewed on March 18 if no party objects.
Russia’s demands, however, have not yet been met, a Turkish diplomatic source said, adding that Ankara was “working very hard” to ensure the deal continues.
“I want to underscore the critical importance of rolling over the Black Sea Grain Initiative on 18th March and working to create the conditions to enable the greatest possible use of export infrastructure through the Black Sea in line with the objectives of the initiative,” Guterres told reporters in Kyiv.
Russia, which lifted a blockade of three Ukrainian Black Sea ports under the deal last July, has signalled that obstacles to its own agricultural exports need to be removed before it lets the deal continue.
To help convince Russia to allow Ukraine to resume its Black Sea grain exports, a three-year deal was struck last year in which the U.N. agreed to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.
Western powers have hit Russia with tough sanctions over its invasion of neighbouring Ukraine more than one year ago. While Russia’s food and fertilizer exports are not subject to sanctions, Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are a “barrier” to such shipments.
“Russia’s concerns, or the rather the difficulties that it is facing, have not been overcome yet. But Turkey is doing its part for an agreement between all parties,” the Turkish diplomatic source said.