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 February 18, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations backed Türkiye and Ukraine on Thursday by calling for a 120-day rollover of an agreement allowing the safe export of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports after Russia said it would only extend the pact for 60 days.
The pact is due to expire on Saturday. It was brokered with Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Türkiye in July – and renewed in November – to combat a global food crisis that was fueled in part by Russia's special military operation in neighboring Ukraine and blockade of its Black Sea grain exports.
"For us, the text in the agreement is clear and it calls for a 120-day rollover," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Reuters when asked about remarks by Türkiye.
The difference in the Russian and UN interpretation of the duration of the deal "may simply be a display of (the UN's) incompetence," Maria Zakharova added
Türkiye said on Wednesday that it would continue talks to extend the deal for 120 days rather than 60 days. Ukraine has also said the agreement should be renewed for 120 days.
READ MORE: Talks underway on Black Sea grain deal extension in Geneva
"The deal is being extended for 60 days," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday, when asked to comment on Dujarric's remarks.
The difference in the Russian and UN interpretation of the duration of the deal "may simply be a display of (the UN's) incompetence," she added.
Dujarric said later that "discussions are ongoing." Senior UN and Russian officials met in Geneva on Monday.
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.
To help persuade Russia to allow Ukraine to resume its Black Sea grain exports last year, a three-year deal was also struck in July in which the United Nations agreed to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.
READ MORE: UN, Ukraine call for extension of Black Sea Grain Initiative
Western powers have hit Russia with tough sanctions over its operation in Ukraine. While its food and fertilizer exports are not under sanctions, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance industries are a barrier to such shipments.
"Meaningful progress has been made but it is true that some obstacles remain, notably with regard to payment systems. Our efforts to overcome those obstacles will continue unabated," Dujarric said on Tuesday.
Ukraine has so far exported nearly 25 million tonnes of mainly corn and wheat under the deal, according to the United Nations.