Turkish official sees ‘high probability’ of extension of Ukraine grain deal

  • Talks on extending the grain deal continue in Turkey
  • The Turkish official says they are moving in a ‘positive direction’
  • The Kremlin declined to comment on how the talks were progressing
  • The Black Sea Treaty helped deal with the global food crisis

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 (Reuters) – There is a “very high probability” that Ukraine’s Black Sea grain deal will be extended, a senior Turkish source said on Wednesday, a day before Russia imposed sanctions on its own grain and pulled out of the deal. Fertilizer export.

Earlier, the last ship left a Ukrainian port, which allows the safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, but expired on Thursday without an agreement on an extension.

“Negotiations (in Turkey) are continuing. They are moving in a positive direction. As far as I can see, the possibility of an agreement being reached is high,” said a senior Turkish official.

“Some contacts are going on. We are very confident,” the source added.

The last ship to operate under the deal, the DSM Capella, left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk with 30,000 tonnes of corn bound for Turkey, UN data show.

The United Nations and Turkey brokered a Black Sea deal for an initial 120 days in July last year to deal with a global food crisis exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s leading grain exporters.

Moscow agreed in November to extend the Black Sea deal by another 120 days, but in March it agreed to a 60-day extension — until May 18 — unless a list of demands on its own agricultural exports were met.

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‘Open Questions’

To convince Russia in July to allow Black Sea grain exports, the United Nations simultaneously agreed to help Moscow with its own agricultural exports for three years.

“There are still many open questions regarding our part of the agreement. A decision must be made now,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.

Asked on Wednesday how the talks were progressing, Peskov said at a conference he would not enter into “conceptual discussions” about what Russia would do if the grain deal fails.

Ships awaiting inspection under the United Nations Black Sea Grain Initiative are seen at the southern anchorage of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey on December 11, 2022. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik//File photo

Senior officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN met in Istanbul last week to discuss the Black Sea deal.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that the deal could be extended by at least two months.

While Russian food and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions imposed following the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance hamper exports.

The US has rejected Russia’s complaints. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said last week: “It exports the same amount of grain and fertilizer, if not more, than it did before the full-scale invasion.”

Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and UN officials are forming a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul to implement the Black Sea Export Agreement. They recognize and inspect ships. No new ships have been approved by the JCC since May 4.

Before traveling through the Maritime Humanitarian Corridor to a Ukrainian Black Sea port, the vessels are inspected by JCC officials near Turkey, collect their cargo, and return to Turkish waters for final inspection.

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In a letter seen by Reuters last month, Russia told its JCC counterparts that any new vessels participating in the Black Sea agreement would not be transported by May 18 — the “expected date of . . . closure.”

It said it was after May 18 “to avoid business losses and prevent potential security risks”.

Based on this warning from Russia, it is unlikely that any shipowners or insurance companies would be willing to continue Ukrainian grain shipments if Russia does not agree to an extension of the contract and decides to leave.

The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine continued the Black Sea Treaty in October, during which Russia briefly suspended its participation.

About 30.3 million tons of grain and food products have been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea Agreement, including 625,000 tons on World Food Program ships for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.

Report by Michael Nichols; Additional reporting by David Lungren; Editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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