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Kremlin, Kyiv Remain At Odds Over Extension Of Black Sea Grain Deal

By RFE/RL March 17, 2023

The Kremlin says Russia is willing to extend a deal that allows Ukraine to export grain through its Black Sea ports for another 60 days, a term Ukraine said it rejects.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov's comments on March 17 come one day before the deal is set to expire. The pact can be extended only with Russia's agreement. Moscow had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the deal, hinting that it might not approve an extension.

However, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said his government was opposed to any deal that would not guarantee 120 days, the same as the previous extension.

"We insist that the grain agreement be open-ended and automatically extended for 120 days," Shmyhal told a government meeting after Peskov spoke.

"Attempts by [Russia] to reduce the extension period are a manipulation to continue further blackmail and deepen a global food crisis. We have to prevent this," he added.

The United Nations Office in Geneva said discussions were ongoing.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on March 17 that the United Nations is "doing everything possible" to make sure the grain export deal continues.

"Meaningful progress" has been made on a separate pledge by the United Nations to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports, he said, but impediments remain, notably with regard to payment systems.

"It is vital for global food security that both of these agreements continue and should be fully implemented," Griffiths said.

Before the Black Sea Grain Initiative was agreed upon in late July 2022, Ukraine and other countries accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon by blockading Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, and the United Nations reached the agreement, which also paved the way for Russian food and fertilizer to reach global markets. The shipments are monitored by a joint coordination center in Istanbul that includes representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey.

The deal has enabled grain shipments to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.

Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other food to those countries, and Russia was the world's top exporter of fertilizer before it launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine last year in February.

The deal, which was first extended for four months on November 17, establishes a safe shipping corridor in the Black Sea and inspection procedures to address concerns that cargo vessels meant for grain might carry weapons or be used to launch attacks.

Last month, the head of the United Nations food agency warned that failure to renew the deal would be catastrophic as millions in Africa are on the cusp of famine.

World Food Program (WFP) chief David Beasley said that the grain flows under the deal were still falling well short of the needs of poorer countries.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/black-sea-grain-deal-russia- extends-60/32322633.html

Copyright (c) 2023. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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