UN says grain deal talks in Istanbul 'important, substantive'
Updated 10:40, 12-May-2023
The grain terminal of the port of Odesa, Ukraine, April 10, 2023. /CFP
The grain terminal of the port of Odesa, Ukraine, April 10, 2023. /CFP

The grain terminal of the port of Odesa, Ukraine, April 10, 2023. /CFP

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 Wednesday and Thursday with the participation of senior-level officials from Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the UN.

"I would describe the meeting as important and as substantive," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told a daily press briefing at the UN headquarters in New York.

Despite no major progress was made from the two-day meeting, Dujarric said four-way contacts will continue over the next few days and expressed conviction that a renewal of the deal will be achieved.

"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. 

The Black Sea Grain Initiative 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 mid-November, 2022 for another 120 days till March 18, 2023 as Russia only agreed to extend the deal for a further 60 days at that point.

After talks finished in Türkiye on Thursday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the initiative should be extended for a longer period and expanded.

A memorandum of understanding between Russia and the UN 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.

Speaking to Russian media in Istanbul on Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said that if Russia's demands remained unresolved, then the Black Sea deal would "cease its existence."

(With input from agencies) 

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