Turkey’s Erdogan says Ukraine’s grain deal has been extended

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a press conference on March 17, 2023. — AFP

ANKARA: Turkey Saturday announced the extension of an agreement that has allowed the export of Ukrainian grain to resume the following Russia’s invasionbut it was unclear whether it had been extended for 60 or 120 days.

Russia said it had agreed to a 60-day extension, while Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said the deal had been extended by 120 days.

Turkey and the UN did not specify the duration.

“After talks with the two parties, we have assured the extension of the agreement that was due to expire on March 19,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in comments broadcast on Turkish television hours before the agreement was due to expire.

“This agreement is of crucial importance for the global food supply. I thank Russia and Ukraine, who did not spare their efforts for a new extension, as well as the UN Secretary General.”

Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 saw Ukraine’s Black Sea ports blockaded by warships.

But an agreement brokered by Turkey and the UN in July 2022 – and signed by Kiev and Moscow – had allowed for the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies.

Relieve food cravings

Ukraine was one of the world’s leading grain producers, and the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped to ease the global food crisis that the conflict has triggered.

“(The) Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement is extended for 120 days. Grateful to Antonio Guterres, UN, President Erdogan, (Turkish Defense Minister) Hulusi Akar and all our partners for sticking to the agreements,” Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter .

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “We are seeing reports from parties to the ‘grain agreement’ that the agreement has been extended by 120 days.

“We have repeatedly stated… that the Russian side has notified all parties to the agreement that it is extending the agreement by 60 days,” Zakharova said in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency.

The UN has said it was doing everything it could to save the deal, which has helped bring the explosion in food prices under control.

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative… has been extended,” the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General said, without saying how long.

The original 120-day agreement was extended in November to March 18.

But citing concerns that a parallel deal on Russian food and fertilizer exports was not being respected, Moscow proposed just a 60-day extension.

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