Black Sea Grain Initiative Cries for Extension

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, established primarily to allow grains and fertilizer exports to overseas countries, has attracted broadly high-level discussions over the past few weeks. The relevant grain deal agreements, which were extended in March for 60 days only at Moscow’s request, are set to expire on May 18.

The main bone of dissatisfaction and strong disagreement about its third-term extension arise from Russia, which claims its conditions be taken in account and strictly be followed. Russia has engaged in its ‘special military operation’ with the neighbouring Ukraine, and stands against Western hegemony.

In Istanbul, participants in a new round of negotiations on an extension of the Black Sea grain initiative, including the UN, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, discussed agricultural exports from southern Ukrainian ports in exchange for the lifting of restrictions on Russian agricultural exports to needy customers overseas.

Maintream media sources also reported that Presidents of Turkey and Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin may discuss the results of grain deal talks in Istanbul in a phone conversation if necessary. “This is a possibility because, as you know, President Erdogan and President Putin frequently hold phone talks if such a necessity arises. The grain deal is very important so they may discuss its results,” the source said replying to a question on the matter.

According to the source, extending the grain deal is a crucial issue for the Turkish leadership in the run-up to the elections and they will do everything in their power to make it happen. “For President Tayyip Erdogan, extending the deal is a signal to the West that Turkey can be trusted. As a result, the government will do everything in its power to preserve the grain initiative,” the source said.

The negotiations between representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN, devoted to the extension of the Black Sea grain deal and the implementation of the Russian part of the agreement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin took part in the negotiations. The UN was represented by Martin Griffiths, UN under-secretary-general. The negotiations were held in various formats – trilateral, four-sided, and bilateral.

The main subject of the negotiations is the start of implementation of the Russian part of the agreement under the overall grain deal framework, which provides for exports of agricultural products and fertilizers from Russia. Previously, Moscow repeatedly noted that, if this part remains unfulfilled, the grain deal would not be extended. Ankara earlier said that Moscow’s demands are absolutely legitimate and should be fulfilled unquestionably.

Another important issue is reconnecting the Russian Agricultural Bank to SWIFT and lifting restrictions on banking and insurance guarantees. As Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu pointed out earlier, the extension of the grain deal would depend on taking these demands by Russia into consideration.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry earlier said that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had suggested that Turkey’s state-owned Ziraat Bank process payments for Russian grain and fertilizer sales. Ankara insists that it could support this proposal if guarantees are given that no threats to the Turkish bank would emerge.

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is set to expire soon, may be extended for another two months in the meeting between Turkish, Russian, Ukrainian and UN delegations in Istanbul,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according media reports. According to the reports, Cavusoglu met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow to discuss the grain deal and the Ukraine situation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that a further extension of the deal would depend on the reconnection of the Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT system and the lifting of a number of restrictions on supplies, insurance and the use of ports. The Turkish side earlier said that the Turkish state bank Ziraat may be ready to carry out operations to pay for Russian grain and fertilizers.

The UN, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine signed two documents to open a grain corridor from three Ukrainian ports (Chernomorsk, Odessa and Yuzhny) and to lift restrictions on Russian food and fertilizer exports. The Black Sea Grain Initiative was first signed in July 2022, a set of documents on supplies of food and fertilizers to the international markets. It was prolonged for another 60 days on March 18.

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.