Germany, Ukraine call for extension of Black Sea grain deal

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Monday for the extension of a landmark deal that allows grain from Ukraine to reach the global market, which is set to expire soon.

In a phone call, the two leaders “called for the grain agreement under the aegis of the United Nations to be extended beyond July 17,” the chancellor’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement.

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The deal, brokered by the UN a year ago and renewed on several occasions since then, “is helping to improve the global food situation,” he added.

Concern about the deal has grown after Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that he was “thinking about” exiting the agreement.

Moscow has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the accord that grants safe passage for Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea, demanding guarantees for Russian fertilizer exports.

A parallel agreement between Moscow and the UN aims to facilitate exports of Russian food and fertilizers, which are exempt from Western sanctions imposed on Moscow, but Russia claims this deal is not being upheld.

Russia’s envoy to the UN in Geneva said earlier Monday that there were currently no grounds to maintain the “status quo” of the deal.

Western capitals were blocking progress on reconnecting the Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT banking system, Gennady Gatilov told the state-backed Izvestia newspaper.

“What we are seeing now does not give us grounds to agree to maintaining the status quo” on the deal, he said in the interview.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 saw Ukraine’s Black Sea ports blocked by warships until the deal, signed in July 2022, allowed for the passage of critical grain exports.

Ukraine was one of the world’s top grain producers, and the deal has helped soothe the global food crunch triggered by the conflict.

Some 32.4 million tonnes have been exported so far under the agreement, according to the UN. Just over half of the exports have been corn, while more than a quarter was wheat.

The initial 120-day agreement struck with the UN and Turkey last July has been extended three times: in November, March and in May.

Read more:

Russia’s UN envoy: No grounds to maintain Black Sea grain deal status quo

Black Sea grain deal can’t be extended: Russian officials

Russia again blocking Black Sea grain export deal: Ukraine

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