An agreement allowing Ukrainian grain exports to ship through the Black Sea to help ease global hunger has been extended for two months just a day before its expiration — overcoming Russia’s threats to pull out of the deal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced the extension of the United Nations-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is aimed at easing global hunger.
“I have good news,” Erdogan said in a statement. “With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends and contribution of our Ukrainian friends, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has been extended by another two months.”
“May it be beneficial to the whole world,” added Erdogan, who is seeking reelection in a runoff vote on May 28.
Russian and Ukrainian government officials also confirmed the deal’s extension.
Russia had been threatening to exit the deal over complaints that it fails to free up Russian agricultural exports that Moscow says have been blocked by Western sanctions. While Russian food and fertilizers are not under sanctions, Moscow says sanctions-related restrictions on banking, transit and insurance make trade untenable.
“Moscow agreed to the extension of the grain deal, given that it is counting on problems with the Russian portion of the agreement to be resolved,” Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia told reporters.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said “distortions” in the deal should be “fixed at maximum speed.”
Meanwhile, Oleksandr Kubrakov, who serves as Ukraine’s deputy prime minister and minister of development and infrastructure, said on Facebook the deal has been extended until July 18.
“The world will continue to receive Ukrainian goods, thanks to the efforts of our partners, Turkey and the U.N.,” he wrote.
But he said Russia must stop using food “as a weapon and for blackmail.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Charles Maynes reported from Moscow and Joanna Kakissis reported from Dnipro, Ukraine. Peter Kenyon contributed reporting from Istanbul.