The UN says Russia agrees to expand Ukraine’s grain exports

ISTANBUL – Russia and Ukraine have agreed to extend an agreement to allow grain exports from Ukrainian ports through a secure Black Sea corridor.

The deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey was due to expire on Saturday and will now last at least another 120 days. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a expression that he welcomed the agreement of all parties to continue the Black Sea Grains Initiative.

Nearly 11 million tons of grain and food were exported under the deal, which provided a lifeline for Ukraine’s crippled wartime economy and helped alleviate food shortages around the world.

The deal will continue with the same provisions as before. The ships will transport grain from three Ukrainian ports: Chornomorsk, Odessa and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. They will travel through the Humanitarian Corridor established in the Black Sea and stop in Istanbul where they will be checked by inspectors from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN before proceeding to the final destination.

The deal was largely a success, despite the complicated logistics of operating in a war zone, including the dangers of mines in the Black Sea. But there was a backlog as dozens of ships docked in Istanbul, waiting sometimes for weeks to be inspected. Russia has so far refused to increase the number of inspectors to meet demand.

Russia withdrew from the deal in October, citing Ukrainian drone strikes in the Black Sea. The move caused an immediate spike in wheat prices and was condemned by world leaders. Russia reversed its decision within days after a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and assurances that Ukraine would not use shipping corridors for military purposes.

Russia has also complained about buyers’ fears that sanctions could hamper its own grain and fertilizer exports, which it can do under a separate deal with the UN, though there are no direct sanctions on Russian grain and fertilizers.

In his statement, Guterres added that the UN is “fully committed to removing remaining barriers to food and fertilizer exports from the Russian Federation in the wake of the global food crisis.”

Speaking to reporters at the G-20 summit in Bali on Wednesday, Erdogan said Ankara is pushing for a further one-year extension of the grain deal.

“As soon as we return, we will continue our talks, especially with Mr. Putin. Because the way to peace leads through dialogue,” said Erdogan.

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