After Russia said it would only extend the pact for 60 days, the United Nations sided with Turkey and Ukraine on Thursday and called for a 120-day rollover of an agreement allowing the safe export of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
This agreement will end on Saturday. After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and blocked its Black Sea grain exports, the United Nations and Turkey mediated a deal with the two countries in July, and they renewed it in November, to alleviate the world’s food shortage.
When questioned by Reuters, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, “For us, the text in the agreement is clear and it calls for a 120-day rollover.” This was in response to comments made by Turkiye.
On Wednesday, Turkiye announced that it would continue negotiations to extend the agreement for an additional 120 days, up from the current 60. The Ukrainian government has also advocated for a further extension of the pact by 120 days.
“The deal is being extended for 60 days,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday, when asked to comment on Dujarric’s remarks.
The UN “may simply be a display of (its) incompetence,” she continued, given the discrepancy between Russian and UN interpretations of the agreement’s duration.
In a later statement, Dujarric said, “discussions are ongoing.” On Monday, high-ranking UN and Russian officials met in Geneva.
Russia has complained that Western sanctions are hindering its ability to export food and fertilizer, but has not explained why it is seeking a 60-day extension.
Last year in July, the United Nations agreed to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports for the next three years in an effort to convince Russia to allow Ukraine to resume its Black Sea grain exports.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West has imposed severe sanctions on the country. While Russia’s exports of food and fertilizer are not targeted by sanctions, the country’s government claims that restrictions on the payments, logistics, and insurance industries make them impossible.
Although significant advancements have been made, there are still some challenges to overcome, most notably in the area of payment systems. Dujarric pledged on Tuesday that the team’s efforts to solve the problem would proceed without interruption.
The United Nations estimates that Ukraine has exported nearly 25 million tons of primarily corn and wheat so far under the deal. Shipments have been mostly destined for China, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands.
China, a strategic partner of Moscow, demanded Thursday that the deal be implemented in a fair and thorough way, following Russia’s proposal for a 60-day extension. China wants to improve communication with all parties and boost global food security, according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.