GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Russia has reiterated its support for a 60-day extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is set to expire March 18, even as the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine have emphasized a full 120-day renewal under existing terms and talks continue.
On a call with reporters on March 17, Reuters reported that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov answered a question about Russia’s position on the grain deal by saying: “Russia is renewing the deal for 60 days.”
Alessandra Vellucci, director of the UN Information Service, told Reuters that negotiations on an extension were continuing.
“The agreement foresees the renewal of 120 days,” she said. “There are discussions ongoing, and we’re not going to speculate on what is going to happen. This is for the discussions’ outcome.”
The deal to unblock Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, was brokered by Turkey and the UN and signed separately by Russia and Ukraine in late July.
Managed by a Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, Turkey, the deal has facilitated the export of 23 million tonnes of grain, mainly wheat and corn, from Ukraine ports, and food and fertilizer from Russia. Before the war, Ukraine and Russia together accounted for about 30% of the world’s wheat exports.
In November, the agreement was extended for 120 days, setting up the need for negotiations on an extension, which began in earnest on March 13 in Geneva, Switzerland. Turkey had said on March 15 that it would continue the talks to extend the deal for 120 days, rather than 60.
It has been reported by various media outlets that the deal would automatically extend for 60 days on March 18 if there are no objections from the involved parties.
While Russia has not specifically said why it only wants a 60-day renewal, it has complained that its own food and fertilizer exports are being hindered by Western sanctions that target payments, logistics and insurance industries.