The UN-chartered vessel MV Valsamitis is loaded to deliver 25,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat to Kenya and 5,000 tonnes to Ethiopia, at the port of Chornomorsk, east of Odessa on the Black Sea coast, on Feb 18, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
UNITED NATIONS – The quadrilateral meeting in Istanbul to discuss the future of the Black Sea Grain Initiative was important and substantive, said a UN spokesman on Thursday.
The meeting was held in Istanbul on Thursday with the participation of senior-level officials from Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
"I would describe the meeting as important and as substantive," he told a daily press briefing at the UN headquarters in New York.
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Speaking at the meeting, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths congratulated the parties on facilitating the safe export of over 30 million metric tons of grain from Ukraine since the beginning of the initiative in July 2022. He reiterated the importance of the initiative for global food security and also recognized the important contribution of food and fertilizer exports from Russia in this regard, said Dujarric.
I think, as you can well imagine, we're in a delicate phase here. … There are challenges. I think we've been as clear as possible on them. We're trying to address all of them and trying to do whatever we can to ensure that this very important initiative continues and that we see progress on our efforts on the facilitation of Russian grain and fertilizer.
Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for UN Secretary-General
Participants in the meeting discussed the recent proposals by the United Nations, the longer extension of the deal, improvements at the Joint Coordination Centre for stable operations and exports, as well as other issues raised by the parties. The parties presented their views and agreed to engage with those elements going forward. Griffiths stressed that the United Nations will continue to work closely with all sides to achieve the continuation and full implementation of the initiative, in pursuit of their broader shared commitment to addressing global food insecurity, said the spokesman.
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The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports, was signed separately by Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul with Türkiye and the United Nations on July 22, 2022. The deal, initially in effect for 120 days, was extended in mid-November 2022 for another 120 days till March 18, 2023. At that point, Russia only agreed to extend the deal for a further 60 days, till May 18, 2023.
A memorandum of understanding between Russia and the United Nations on the facilitation of exports of Russian food and fertilizer is a parallel agreement with the Black Sea Grain Initiative. While the exports of Ukrainian grain have made strides, Russia has constantly expressed displeasure with the lack of progress in the facilitation of exports of Russian food and fertilizer.
Dujarric said Thursday that contacts will continue over the next few days.
"I think, as you can well imagine, we're in a delicate phase here. … There are challenges. I think we've been as clear as possible on them. We're trying to address all of them and trying to do whatever we can to ensure that this very important initiative continues and that we see progress on our efforts on the facilitation of Russian grain and fertilizer," he said.
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Asked about contingency planning if the Black Sea Grain Initiative is not renewed beyond May 18, Dujarric said there is no plan B.
"It is clear that if this initiative cannot continue and its package cannot continue, it will have a negative impact on global food security, on global food prices," he said.
"We're talking about geography here. There is no plan B for the Black Sea. There is the Black Sea. We can't move the ports. We can't move the sea. We can't move the Bosporus," he added.