New Black Sea grain deal remains elusive despite resumption of ship inspections – National

Inspections of ships carrying Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea resumed on Wednesday under a UN-brokered deal, but Kiev said more time was needed to secure an extension of the initiative.

Ukraine relies heavily on income from grain sales to fight Russian aggression, and its allies blame Moscow and Ukraine and the United Nations for the recent suspension of ship inspections in the Bosphorus. .

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kublakov wrote on Facebook that “vessel inspections are being resumed despite RF (Russian Federation) attempts to sabotage the deal.”

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The Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which oversees the operation, said “tests have already taken place.”

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Negotiations on extending the Black Sea grain agreement beyond the May 18 deadline have yielded no breakthroughs, and Kiev’s grain exports are also limited by import bans imposed by three Eastern European countries. .

The Black Sea Grains Initiative, which reached a UN-Turkish arbitration agreement last July, lifted blockades on three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, five months after Russia’s aggression.

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It was designed to alleviate the global food crisis and help Ukraine, whose economy relies heavily on agricultural exports.

Without providing any documentary evidence, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Kiev of sabotaging the deal by demanding bribes from shipowners to register and inspect the vessels. Kiev did not immediately comment on the allegations.

Russia said it had only committed to the initiative until May 18, complaining that another agreement to facilitate exports of its agricultural products and fertilizers had not been honored.

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Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Mykola Sorsky told reporters that talks were underway to extend the agreement next month. But Sorsky said, “Let’s give them time,” making it clear that they weren’t expected to make the breakthrough anytime soon.

He did not provide details of the talks.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York next week to discuss a grain export deal.

Kiev is also seeking agreements from three Eastern European EU member states to lift bans on Ukrainian grains and food.

Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have imposed bans to protect their markets from an influx of cheap supplies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Bulgaria and Romania also saying they could take action.

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Poland has also banned not only imports, but also domestic transit of Ukrainian grains. On Tuesday, after consultations with Kiev, it agreed to lift the transit ban.

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A large amount of Ukrainian grain is confined to Eastern and Central Europe as low global prices and low demand mean the grain cannot be easily marketed.

The bottleneck reduced prices and sales by local farmers and put political pressure on local governments.

The EU has criticized member states for imposing separate bans, and EU ambassadors were expected to discuss the situation in Brussels late Wednesday.

The European Trade Commission’s Valdis Dombrowski was also scheduled to hold a videoconference on Wednesday with the trade ministers of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

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The EU executive, the European Commission, is considering a second package of compensation payments to farmers, following an initial €56m ($61m) package agreed in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania at the end of March. said it does.

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