Türkiye believes grain deal will be extended: Defense minister

Türkiye believes grain deal will be extended: Defense minister

Türkiye believes grain deal will be extended: Defense minister

Russia and Ukraine both are positive for extending the grain deal once more, and Ankara believes that the process will continue with the second extension, the Turkish defense minister has said.

“Both sides approach positively, and we believe that it will result in a positive outcome. We are of the opinion that the deadline will be extended on March 18,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in an interview, adding that nearly 24 million tons of grain were delivered to those in need via the deal.

Elaborating on the Syrian refugees returning to their homeland, Akar said around 56,000 Syrians have returned to their home country across the border due to the loss of their homes and relatives after the Feb. 6 earthquakes in southern Türkiye.

Regarding the works carried out in the earthquake area, Akar said, “We made 6,320 sorties in one month. Considering that our Air Force makes 6,500 sorties in 1 year as a transportation sortie, it reveals how hard we work.”

Russia, UN set for Ukraine grain deal renewal talks

Russia and the United Nations will hold talks in Geneva on March 13 on renewing the Ukraine grain export deal, with the U.N. saying the fate of millions rested on its extension.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year saw Ukraine’s Black Sea ports blocked by warships until a deal signed in July allowed the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies.

More than 23.7 million tons have been exported under the U.N. and Türkiye-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), according to the United Nations.

The BSGI deal, which has helped ease the global food crisis caused by the invasion, will automatically renew on March 18 unless Moscow or Kiev object.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on March 9 that extending the deal was becoming “complicated,” as he claimed a parallel agreement on Russian exports was not being respected.

While the BSGI concerns the export of Ukrainian grain, the second agreement, between Moscow and the U.N., aimed to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizers, which are exempt from Western sanctions imposed on Moscow.

“If the package is half fulfilled, then the issue of extension becomes quite complicated,” Lavrov said during a press conference in Moscow.

“Our Western colleagues, the United States and the European Union, pathetically declare... that no sanctions apply to food and fertilizers, but this position is dishonest,” Lavrov added.

“In fact, the sanctions prohibit Russian ships carrying grain and fertilizers from entering the corresponding ports, sanctions prohibit foreign ships from entering Russian ports to pick up this cargo,” he said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on March 9 that a Russian “interdepartmental delegation” will head to Geneva for the talks.

She said the discussions would include U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, and Rebeca Grynspan, head of the U.N.’s trade and development agency UNCTAD.

“The deal will be discussed,” the spokeswoman told reporters.

The U.N. confirmed talks were scheduled for March 13.

UNCTAD said the deal had allowed for greater consistency and predictability, helping to mitigate price shocks in the international market.

“The BSGI is one example of concrete action to navigate some of the worst cost-of-living crises the world has faced in a generation,” it said on March 9, in a report on the deal’s impact.

“The BSGI has yielded results that need to be scaled up. There is too much at stake and the situation is dire. Without the initiative, the lives of millions more are placed in a precarious position,” it stated.

“The renewal of the BSGI provides hope that the world’s most vulnerable can make it through the crises. And every effort is needed to keep this hope alive,” it added.

On March 7, U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said it was crucial to extend the deal, during a visit to Kiev. Grynspan was in the Ukrainian capital on March 8 for talks on the BSGI.

Guterres’ deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York that Grynspan had been “pushing very hard” to make sure that obstructions to Russian fertilizer exports are cleared.

Ukraine is one of the world’s top grain producers.

The BSGI accounted for 60 percent of total Ukrainian export volumes of corn, wheat and barley during the first four months of its operation, UNCTAD said.

Nearly half of the exports are corn and more than a quarter wheat.

Around 45 percent of the exports went to developed countries. The biggest recipient was China, followed by Spain, Türkiye, Italy and the Netherlands.