U.S. State Department urges continuation of grain deal as Turkey allows for two-month extension

11 May, 11:47 AM
The US offers to extend the grain agreement (Photo:REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Caliskan)

The US offers to extend the grain agreement (Photo:REUTERS/Mehmet Emin Caliskan)

The U.S. State Department has called for an extension of the Black Sea Grain initiative, which allows for the export of food from Ukraine as an exemption to the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s sea coast, in a tweet posted on May 10.

The Department believes that the agreement needs to be expanded to allow more ships to enter the ports of the Black Sea, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on Moscow to stop using hunger as a weapon in its war against Ukraine.

Russia has maintained a blockade on Ukrainian ports since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in Feb. 2022, causing global food prices to rise, especially in the global South, as Ukraine is a major grain supplier for many of those countries. In response, the UN, working with Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia, brokered a grain initiative in Istanbul on July 22, 2022. This initiative provides for the creation of a corridor for grain exports from three Ukrainian ports (Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Pivdennyi), as well as the lifting of barriers on the export of Russian food and fertilizers.

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The agreement has been extended several times, with the latest extension being on March 18, 2023. Ukrainian and Russian sources disagree about the length of that extension – the Russians claim that the agreement was only extended for 60 days, while Ukrainian sources allege the extension was for 120 days.

On April 24, the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of “violating” its obligations under the grain agreement, following a drone attack in Sevastopol allegedly launched from the port of Odesa. The Russian side, which has continued to violate the strictures of the initiatives, announced that there was a “threat to further extension of the agreement after May 18.”

On May 5, the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, set up by the UN to monitor and oversee compliance with the initiative, was unable to reach an agreement on issuing permits for new ships to participate in exporting goods from Ukraine.

On May 10, deputies of the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and representatives of the United Nations, met in Turkey to discuss extending the grain initiative.

At the summit, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that the grain initiative may be extended for another two months, though no conclusive agreement had been reached.

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