Erdogan says Black Sea grain deal extended for two months

The flow of ships through the corridor had been grinding to a halt during the last few days with the deal apparently set to expire

Published : 17 May 2023, 03:12 PM
Updated : 17 May 2023, 03:12 PM

The Ukraine Black Sea grain deal has been extended for two more month, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday, one day before Russia could have quit the pact over obstacles to its grain and fertiliser exports. 

The flow of ships through the corridor had been grinding to a halt during the last few days with the deal apparently set to expire on Thursday. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the last remaining ship registered to travel through the corridor had left a Ukrainian port. 

UN data showed that the DSM Capella had left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk carrying 30,000 tonnes of corn and was on its way to Turkey. 

"The Black Sea grain corridor deal has been extended by two months with the efforts of Turkey," Erdogan said in a televised speech, also thanking the Russian and Ukrainian leaders and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for their help. 

A spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry said they would be commenting later on the reported extension. 

The United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea 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. 

Moscow agreed to extend the Black Sea pact for a further 120 days in November, but then in March it agreed to a 60 day extension - until May 18 - unless a list of demands regarding its own agricultural exports was met. 


To convince Russia in July to allow Black Sea grain exports, the United Nations agreed at the same time to help Moscow with its own agricultural shipments for three years. 

"There are still a lot of open questions regarding our part of the deal. Now a decision will have to be taken," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. 

Asked on Wednesday about how the talks were progressing, Peskov told a briefing he would not enter into "hypothetical discussions" on what Russia would do if the grain deal lapsed. 

Senior officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN met in Istanbul last week to discuss the Black Sea pact. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week he thought the deal could be extended for at least two more months. 

While Russian exports of food and fertiliser are not subject to Western sanctions imposed following the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments. 

The United States has rejected Russia's complaints. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said last week: "It is exporting grain and fertiliser at the same levels, if not higher, than before the full scale invasion." 

Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN make up a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, which implements the Black Sea export deal. They authorise and inspect ships. No new vessels have been authorised by the JCC since May 4. 

Authorised ships are inspected by JCC officials near Turkey before travelling to a Ukrainian Black Sea port via a maritime humanitarian corridor to collect their cargo and return to Turkish waters for a final inspection. 

In an excerpt of a letter seen by Reuters last month, Russia told its JCC counterparts that it would not approve any new vessels to take part in the Black Sea deal unless the transits would be done by May 18 - "the expected date of ... closure". 

It said this was "to avoid commercial losses and prevent possible safety risks" after May 18. 

Some 30.3 million tonnes of grain and foodstuffs has been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, including 625,000 tonnes in World Food Programme vessels for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.