Ukraine has started online talks with partners on extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative aimed at ensuring Kyiv can keep shipping grain to global markets, a senior Ukrainian government source said on Tuesday.
The source said Ukraine had not held discussions with Russia, which blockaded Ukrainian Black Sea ports after its invasion last year, but that it was Kyiv’s understanding that its partners were talking to Moscow.
“The situation with negotiations is rather complicated. Now a lot depends not on us but on the partners,” said the source, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
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Ukraine is a major global grain grower and exporter, but its exports have been hit by Russia’s invasion.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July and was extended in November, but it is due to expire on March 18 unless an extension is agreed.
Yuriy Vaskov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of restoration, told Reuters last month that Kyiv would ask all sides to start talks on extending the deal by at least one year and that Ukraine wanted the city of Mykolaiv’s ports included.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that Ankara was working hard to extend the initiative while Russia has signaled it is unhappy with aspects of the deal.
Moscow has said it will agree to extend the Black Sea grain deal only if the interests of its own agricultural producers are taken into account.
Russia’s agricultural exports have not been explicitly targeted by Western sanctions, but Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are a “barrier” to it being able to export its own grains and fertilizers.
Ukraine’s grain exports are down 26.6% at 32.9 million tonnes in the 2022/23 season as of March 6, hit by a smaller harvest and logistical difficulties caused by Russia’s invasion.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, editing by Timothy Heritage)
Photograph: Bulk carrier M/V Razoni, carrying a cargo of 26,000 tonnes of corn, leaves Ukraines port of Odesa, en route to Tripoli in Lebanon, on Aug. 1, 2022. Photographer: Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images
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