Ukraine Grain Deal Extended: A Lifeline for Global Food Crisis

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The United Nations-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows Ukrainian grain exports to be shipped through the Black Sea to alleviate global hunger, has been extended for two months. Despite Russia’s threats to withdraw from the agreement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension, expressing gratitude to Russia and Ukraine for their cooperation. The deal’s extension was confirmed by officials from both Russia and Ukraine. Erdogan, who is running for reelection, emphasized the potential benefits of the agreement for the world.

Russia complains the deal doesn’t unsnarl its shipments

Russia has threatened to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative due to its dissatisfaction with the deal. Moscow claims that the agreement fails to fulfil its promise of facilitating Russian agricultural exports that have been affected by Western sanctions. While food and fertilizers are not subject to sanctions, Russia argues that restrictions on banking, transit, and insurance hinder trade. However, Russia agreed to the extension of the grain deal with the hope that issues regarding the Russian portion of the agreement will be resolved. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson called for speedy fixes to the perceived distortions in the deal. Ukrainian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, celebrated the extension of the agreement until July 18, thanking Turkey and the United Nations for their support. Nevertheless, Kubrakov emphasized that Russia should cease using food as a weapon and for blackmail.

Wheat for poorer countries

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was established in July of the previous year by the United Nations and Turkey to address the global food crisis and rising food prices intensified by the conflict in Ukraine. The crisis worsened due to Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, impeding the export of vital commodities like wheat and sunflower oil. Russia claimed that Ukraine had extensively mined the Black Sea, hindering trade and transit. The agreement allows ships from both countries to use a humanitarian sea corridor and undergo inspections at an UN-operated hub in Turkey. According to the UN, the initiative has facilitated the transportation of over 30 million metric tons of grain and other food items, benefiting impoverished and developing nations. Ukraine, a significant grain exporter, has relied on these exports to sustain its economy during the war.

Drone attack

The extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative has been welcomed by the United States and the United Nations, considering it a significant diplomatic accomplishment amidst a devastating conflict that has resulted in massive casualties, displacement, and economic instability. Last October, Russia briefly suspended its involvement in the agreement, citing a drone attack from within the humanitarian zone by Ukraine on its Black Sea fleet. However, Ukrainian authorities and their Western allies denied the accusation and accused Russia of attempting to undermine the deal and manipulate food exports for political purposes. Additionally, Ukraine has accused Russian inspectors in the Bosporus of obstructing or refusing inspections, leading to the congestion of container ships. Moscow has refuted these allegations.

 

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Source: NPR