UN: Consultations for grain deal extension continue

GENEVA – The United Nations (UN) said on Tuesday that the consultations for the Black Sea grain deal extension, which is set to expire on March 18, continue.

Asked by Anadolu about how the UN sees the 60-day time limit on the new extension announced by the Russian side following their Monday meeting and if the UN seeks a longer period of extension, Jens Laerke, the spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that for now, the current agreement is valid.

"The United Nations noted the announcement made by the Russian Federation regarding an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative for 60 days," Laerke said, adding they are "fully behind" Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' remark in which he confirmed that they will do everything possible to preserve the integrity of the agreement and to ensure its continuity.

His remarks came during the weekly UN press briefing in Geneva.

"Meeting with Russian Federation here in Geneva concluded yesterday as agreed, however, consultations continue at all levels," he added.

Asked by reporters what will be the procedure for the extension, Laerke said, "We will see what happens on Saturday."

Catherine Huissoud, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) spokeswoman, said they "do not have any additional information."

"So we stick to the statement that was shared with us. And we have no further comments," Huissoud said.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said in a later statement that the Black Sea Grain deal allows for renewals of 120 days.

However, he added that under the current circumstances, Antonio Guterres and his team were focused on simply ensuring that the initiative continues while maintaining close contact with all parties.

UNCTAD chief Rebeca Grynspan and her staff have also been working to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizer under a parallel memorandum of understanding, Dujarric said.

"Meaningful progress has been made but it is true that some obstacles remain, notably with regard to payment systems," he said, pledging that UN efforts to overcome those obstacles would continue.

The agreement on the Black Sea grain initiative and the memorandum of understanding on the export of Russian food and fertilizer "are both critical for global food security, especially in developing countries," he said.

On Monday, the Russian deputy foreign minister said Moscow does not object to another extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative "but only for 60 days."

Sergey Vershinin's remarks came in a statement following a Russian delegation meeting with UN Conference on Trade and Development Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths.

According to the TASS news agency, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko on Tuesday said: "Indeed, the deal has been extended - it has been agreed that it has been extended for 60 days."

On Monday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Russia’s position to extend the Black Sea grain deal "only for 60 days contradicts the document" signed by Türkiye and the UN in July 2022.

The grain initiative has allowed the exports of 24 million metric tons of grains and over 1,600 secure vessel voyages through the Black Sea with 55 percent of food exports going to developing countries, the UN said Monday in a statement where it noted Russia's announcement.

Last July, Türkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports which were paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February 2022.

The deal was extended for 120 days in November. (Anadolu)