UN Confirms Black Sea Grain Initiative was Extended for 120 Days
UN officials confirmed that all the parties in the Ukraine grain export deal have agreed to an automatic 120-day extension to the agreement originally brokered by the UN and Turkey. While there had been talk of revisions to the agreement, or possible demands from Russia to obtain its cooperation, the deal was extended unchanged while Ukraine repeated appeals for further amendments.
The agreement which was originally signed in late July ran for 120 days and was due to expire on November 19. After beginning shipments in August, the pace of exports increased although Russian President Vladimir Putin at various times expressed his dissatisfaction saying that Russia was not getting the same access to ship its grain and fertilizer and that it had been told the Ukrainian products would go primarily to countries facing food shortages. Today, however, Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that the export deal would continue without changes.
"I welcome the agreement by all parties to continue the Black Sea grain initiative to facilitate the safe navigation of export of grain, foodstuffs, and fertilizers from Ukraine," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement. He said he was deeply moved by the level of cooperation and grateful that an agreement had been reached in Istanbul. The UN chief also expressed his deep commitment to remove the “remaining obstacles to the unimpeded exports of Russian food and fertilizers,” as these remain “essential” to avoid a food crisis next year.
Guterres also thanked Turkey for its critical role. He said that Istanbul has become an “essential center for discreet diplomacy to solve dramatic problems.” Turkey oversees the inspections and hosts the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul.
JCC officials reported that since the exports began in early August, a total of 470 inbound and 471 outbound voyages have been enabled. As of November 17, they said that nearly 11.2 million metric tons of grain and foodstuffs have been exported from the three Ukrainian ports.
While also welcoming the news and highlighting the role the exports were playing, Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, said “We officially appealed to the partners of the initiative with a proposal to extend the initiative for at least one year and to include the Mykolaiv port in it. We are waiting for their responses.”
Ukraine is also proposing changes to the inspection process and the JCC’s operations to further expedite the clearance process and permit more grain to be exported.
The JCC reports that 69 vessels are waiting to sail for Ukraine after receiving inspections. This is down from a backlog of over 100 vessels in October. The officials said the inbound ships have a capacity for a further 1.5 million tons of grain and other food products. Bad weather prevented them from carrying out inspections today. They said that 24 loaded vessels are waiting for inspection in Turkish territorial waters.