The Black Sea Grain Initiative is Nearing its Expiration

Ukraine —

As the clock ticked towards the possible end of Saturday’s “Black Sea Grain Initiative”, there were calls at the United Nations (UN) on Friday for the initiative to be fully extended, while Russia complained that it was not enough. beneficial.

“Currently, the UN, under the leadership of the Secretary General [Antonio] Guterres, is doing everything possible to ensure the Black Sea Grain Initiative can continue. We continue to be in close contact with all parties,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told a UN Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

Since being signed on July 22 in Istanbul, 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. The associated Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and the UN has made inroads in allaying the concerns of banks, insurers, freight forwarders and other private sector actors about doing business with Russia (which is under Western sanctions).

“As a result, global markets have calmed down and food prices have continued to fall,” said Griffiths. Griffiths was speaking by videoconference from Geneva, after earlier this week he and US trade chief Rebeca Grynspan met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin.

Griffiths told council members it was “important” to global food security that both agreements go ahead and be fully implemented.

A truck unloads wheat in Zghurivka village, Ukraine, August 9, 2022. Ukrainian wheat exports can continue under "Black Sea Initiative" and helped ease rising global food prices.

A truck unloads wheat in the village of Zghurivka, Ukraine, August 9, 2022. Ukrainian wheat exports can continue under the “Black Sea Initiative” and help ease rising global food prices.

That would require an extension of the agreement by four months Saturday, but Russia says it has not benefited enough from the deal and will only agree to a 60-day extension. Turkey, which helped broker the deal, and Ukraine both want the full 120 days.

“The efforts of the Secretary-General (Guterres) have not yielded results, and neither can we accept them,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council.

He said the deal did not hurt Russia’s economy but hurt developing countries, which it was meant to help, by not sending enough grain. He also said it was a “complete lie” that Russia’s military action had caused any kind of global food crisis.

Moscow has repeatedly said its fertilizers and food products are under Western sanctions. While Russian food and fertilizer products are not subject to Western sanctions, many companies are afraid to do business with Russian companies and fear they could accidentally conflict with Western actions.

“And in terms of sanctions (against Russia), we have made great efforts to communicate clear exemptions on food products and fertilizers to the government and the private sector. Simply put, sanctions are not the problem,” said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, adding that grain “should flow freely.”

Ukraine’s envoy said that although nearly 50,000 square kilometers of its country’s agricultural land is unfit for use due to landmine contamination or active hostilities, the country’s farmers have still managed to export nearly 25 million metric tons of food since August 1.

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative must be renewed after ending on March 18 for at least 120 days, as predicted, before an indefinite period,” said UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya of Ukraine. “The scope should be extended to Ukrainian ports in the Mykolaiv region.”

Of the 15 members of the UN Security Council, 14 said the deal needed to be continued, and only Russia remained withholding its full support for a 120-day extension to the deal. [pp/ft]

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