UN and Turkey say discussions on grain deal continue

KYIV/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Turkey and the United Nations said on Tuesday that talks were on to renew a deal on grain exports through Black Sea ports, as Russia announced its extension for a further 60-day period.

Ukraine, for its part, has indicated it is strictly abiding by the terms of the arrangement, which it says only provides for an extension period of 120 days.

The current deal is set to expire on March 18.

Turkey, which is mediating the issue with the United Nations, said through its defense ministry that talks were ongoing.

“Discussions ended yesterday (Monday), but consultations continue with all parties,” said a spokesman for the UN humanitarian affairs office headed by Martin Griffiths.

Martin Griffiths and Rebecca Grinspan, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), met in Geneva on Monday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Verchinin, who proposed a 60-day extension.

Cited by the Tass agency, Alexander Grushko, who was also the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that the agreement had been extended under the same terms for another period. “In fact, the agreement has been extended – it has been agreed that it will be extended for 60 days,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Russian source said the 60-day extension meant that after that the two sides could offer to terminate the deal.

A senior Ukrainian official warned that Ukraine would “strictly” abide by the terms of the agreement, which stipulates that the duration of the extension has been set at 120 days.

“The Russians have realized that an extension of 60 days is not legally possible, so they are trying to find a way out,” he said.

The grain agreement, concluded in July 2022 under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey, was renewed for the first time in November 2022 for a period of 120 days. This allowed the export of millions of tons of grain.

Last month, Kiev expressed a desire to extend the agreement for at least a year and extend it to other ports.

(Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, with office in Moscow; French edition edited by Jean Terzien and Jean-Stéphane Brosse, Blandine Heinault)

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