Ukrainian grain deal extended for winter
The agreement allowing Ukrainian grain exports from Ukrainian ports has been renewed for the four winter months, alleviating concerns about a possible global food crisis.
Three of the parties involved in this agreement, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations confirmed Thursday morning the continuation of this agreement which also involves Russia, but Moscow has not confirmed at this stage.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which expired on Friday evening, brought more than 11 million tonnes of grain out of Ukrainian ports in four months.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres « welcomed » the news in a statement from the Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center (JCC), which oversees boat movements through the Bosphorus.
According to a senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, the agreement was extended for four months « under the same conditions » as those observed since July.
According to this official, all the parties have agreed that “the agreement remains in place for 120 days during the winter months” and “new arrangements” can then be made at the end of the bad season in the Black Sea.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the architects of this agreement, said on Wednesday that he was “convinced” that the agreement would be renewed.
Intense negotiations under the aegis of the UN have been conducted in recent weeks to ensure the extension of these arrangements, while more than ten million tonnes of cereals are still blocked in silos in Ukraine.
These cereals are essential for stabilizing prices on international markets and for supplying the populations most vulnerable to the risk of hunger, particularly in Africa.
Of the 11 million tonnes exported to date, approximately 40% has been served to developing countries.
In his statement, Mr. Guterres said that « the United Nations is fully committed to removing the obstacles that hinder the export of agricultural products and fertilizers from the Russian Federation ».
Moscow had temporarily disengaged from the agreement and had demanded its suspension last month, after the fall of a missile in annexed Crimea, before returning to it.
Russia has insisted in recent weeks on the principle agreed last summer of its own exports of fertilizers and food products.
A separate agreement, parallel to that on the Black Sea Grains Initiative (the official name of the agreement) was signed on July 22 in Istanbul.
Last week, Russian and United Nations negotiators met for several hours in Geneva, the UN headquarters.
Agricultural products are not subject to sanctions against Russia, but because of the risks associated with the conflict in the Black Sea, shipowners no longer wanted to hire their boats because they could not find insurance.
According to a source within the United Nations, associated with the negotiations, it was necessary « to work hard » to find the means of guaranteeing Russian exports.
According to this source, a framework has been established « in matters of insurance, access to ports, financial transactions and access to maritime transport », consistent with the three systems of sanctions in force, the United States, of the United Kingdom and the European Union.
« This political framework needed to be clarified so that private sector players were ready to re-engage with Russia, » the source explained.
The agreement reached paved the way for continued trade in the Black Sea.