Talks underway on Black Sea grain deal extension in Geneva
GENEVA -Negotiations began on Monday between U.N. officials and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin on a possible extension to a deal allowing the safe export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, the Russian diplomatic mission in Geneva said.
The Black Sea grain initiative, brokered between Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey last July, aimed to prevent a global food crisis by allowing Ukrainian grain blockaded by Russia’s invasion to be safely exported from three Ukrainian ports.
The deal, which was extended for 120 days in November, is up for renewal on March 18.
Moscow has already signalled it will only agree to an extension if restrictions affecting its own exports are lifted, but many diplomats and senior officials, including Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, are optimistic that the deal will be renewed.
Russian officials say that although the country’s agricultural exports have not been explicitly targeted by the West, sanctions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries have created a barrier for it being able to export its own grains and fertilisers.
United Nations trade official Rebeca Grynspan and aid chief Martin Griffiths arrived at the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva on Monday morning, without making a comment.
Two sources involved with the talks said they were initially scheduled to last just one day but could be extended as needed.