The United Nations confirmed that the deal to export Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports, which was due to expire Saturday, has been extended, but it did not say for how long.
According to the terms of the agreement, the renewal should be for 120 days, but Russia said it will extend it for only half that period.
Russia agreed to extend the grain deal for only 60 days, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russia’s TASS news agency on Saturday. "We repeat once again. Russia agreed to extend the deal for 60 days."
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, alongside 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,” U.N. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. “We remain strongly committed to both agreements and we urge all sides to redouble their efforts to implement them fully.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, along with the United Nations, helped broker the deal, also confirmed it had been extended but did not specify for how long.
Ukraine’s infrastructure minister had said in a tweet that it was for the full 120 days.
For weeks the United Nations has been working to keep it fully functioning after the Russians had raised complaints about its implementation.
Since it was signed on July 22 in Istanbul and renewed in November, the initiative has facilitated the safe export of nearly 25 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs from three Black Sea ports in Ukraine to global markets.
A corresponding Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and the United Nations has made inroads in easing concerns of anxious banks, insurers, shippers and other private-sector actors about doing business with Russia.
“As a result, markets have been calmed and global food prices have continued to fall,” U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Friday. Griffiths and U.N. trade chief Rebeca Grynspan met earlier this week in Geneva with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, as they sought to keep the Russians fully onboard.
The U.N. has emphasized that the grain deal has been critical in lowering global food prices, which spiked because of COVID-19 and then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are major global food producers.