The Black Sea grain corridor designed to ensure the safe supply of Ukrainian food to world markets has not yet resumed operation despite statements by Turkey and Russia on extending the agreement, a senior Ukrainian official said on Thursday.
The deal has been extended for two more months, in what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed on Wednesday as “good news for the world,” a day before Russia could have quit the pact over obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports.
“This was announced yesterday, but so far these statements have not led to the resumption of work and the joint center in Istanbul did not inspect vessels for entry yesterday or today,” Yuriy Vaskov, Ukraine’s deputy restoration minister told Reuters.
“We expected it to be yesterday immediately after the statements of our partners. We are expecting the partners’ position today and believe that they will be able to resolve this issue,” he told in an interview.
He said 62 vessels are ready for inspection and some of them have been standing by for several months.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension in a televised speech on Wednesday and it was later confirmed by Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the deal for an initial 120 days in July last year to help tackle a global food crisis that has been aggravated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s leading grain exporters.
Ukraine to seek “appropriate steps”
Moscow had initially appeared unwilling to extend the pact unless a list of demands regarding its own agricultural exports was met.
It wants the West to remove obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer, including the reconnection of Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the SWIFT payment system.
Other demands include the resumption of supplies of agricultural machinery and parts, lifting restrictions on insurance and reinsurance, the resumption of the Togliatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline and the unblocking of assets and the accounts of Russian companies involved in food and fertilizer exports.
Vaskov, however, said Ukraine does not link Russia’s demands and the Black Sea grain initiative because neither Ukraine nor Turkey, as parties to this initiative, have signed any agreements with Russia.
He said this is a Russian “parallel relationship with the UN,” while the Ukrainian side is fulfilling everything that it signed in the Black Sea agreement.
“If Ukraine is expected to take any additional steps to improve global food security, Ukraine will also demand appropriate steps regarding Ukrainian producers,” Vaskov said.
“If you ask about the ammonia pipeline, it should be seen through the prism of Ukrainian interests, not that the pipeline should work, and Ukraine gets nothing from it.”
He declined to give more details.