The Black Sea grain export deal was extended for the full 120 days at the last minute on March 18, according to Ankara and Kyiv.
The deal allows Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports that had previously been under blockade by the Russian navy. The first deal was signed in July last year and ran for 120 days. The deal was renewed in November for another 120 days, but the Kremlin has been unhappy with the implementation of the deal and was threatening to only extend it for another 60 days last week.
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, who along with the UN brokered the first deal, announced that the extension allowing the export of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports has been renewed, just as it was due to expire.
The extension of the deal was confirmed by Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who announced that it had been agreed upon for 120 days.
"(The Black Sea Grain Initiative) agreement is extended for 120 days," Kubrakov wrote on Twitter. "Grateful to (UN General Secretary Antonio) Guterres, (the) UN, President Erdogan, Minister Hulusi Akar & all our partners for sticking to the agreements," he added.
In his speech in the western city of Canakkale, Erdogan did not specify the length of the agreed-upon extension, Reuters reports, but he did express his satisfaction with the talks with the two sides that had resulted in securing the deal's extension.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement is vital for both Turkey and Ukraine, as the Black Sea ports play a significant role in the export of grain to the world. A blockade of Ukraine’s exports led to fears of a global food crisis that would have hit African countries particularly hard.
With this agreement, Turkey secures the import of much-needed grain, while Ukraine ensures the continuation of its export trade, despite the ongoing conflict with Russia.
Moscow has been complaining that the EU restrictions on shipping mean that its own grain exports have been hampered at a time when Russia is under pressure to increase exports too, thanks to a bumper harvest and grain silos that are full to bursting.
Russia has brought in a new all-time high record harvest of 153mn-155mn tonnes of grain, President Vladimir Putin said during the visit to the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant on March 14, and is running out of storage space after a similar record harvest last year. The Kremlin was pushing the West to ease restrictions on international shipping companies doing business with Russian firms in order to increase the amount of grain it can export – a major earner of foreign exchange.