The last ship on the left a port in Ukraine on Wednesday under an agreement allowing safe Black Sea grain exports to Ukraine a day before Russia could terminate the agreement due to barriers to grain and fertilizer exports this.
QThe DSM Capella left the port of Chornomorsk carrying 30,000 tons of corn and headed for Turkey, according to data released by the United Nations.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered an initial 120-day Black Sea deal in July last year to help deal with a global food crisis exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the main which is the world’s grain exporter.
Moscow agreed to extend the Black Sea pact for an additional 120 days in November, but in March it agreed to a 60-day extension – until May 18 – unless a list of demands on its own agricultural exports were realized.
To convince Russia in July to allow the export of grains to the Black Sea, the United Nations agreed at the same time to help Moscow with its own agricultural shipments for three years.
“There are many open questions about our part of the deal. Now a decision must be made,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, according to Russian media.
Senior officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN met in Istanbul last week to discuss the Black Sea agreement. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday: “Contacts continue at different levels. It is clear that we are in a delicate phase.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that he thought the deal could be extended for at least two more months.
While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance amount to a barrier to those shipping.
The United States rejected Russia’s complaints. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said last week: “It exports grains and fertilizers at the same level, if not higher, than before the full invasion.”
Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN make up the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul, which implements the Black Sea export deal. They allow and inspect the ships. No new vessels have been allowed in the JCC since May 4.
Authorized vessels are inspected by JCC officials near Turkey before traveling to a Black Sea port in Ukraine through a maritime humanitarian corridor to collect their cargo and return to Turkish waters for a final inspection.
In an excerpt of a letter seen by Reuters last month, Russia told its JCC counterparts that it would not approve any new vessels joining the Black Sea deal unless the voyages were carried out on May 18 – “the expected date of … .”
It said this was “to avoid commercial losses and prevent possible safety risks” after May 18.
Given this Russian warning, it seems unlikely that any shipowners or insurance companies will be willing to continue transporting grain exports to Ukraine if Russia does not agree to an extension of the deal and decides to quit.
The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine maintained the Black Sea agreement in October with a brief suspension of Russia’s participation.
About 30.3 million tons of grain and foodstuffs are exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, including 625,000 tons of World Food Program ships for operations in aid of AfghanistanEthiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Nigel Hunt; editing by Grant McCool)
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