Turkey is hoping that a grain export deal between Kyiv and Moscow key to alleviating a global food crisis can be extended for another 120 days – but time is running out.
The current deal expires just before midnight on Saturday, Istanbul time.
“The deadline is approaching,” Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Friday.
“We are in touch with both Ukraine and Russia about extending the agreement under its original terms.”
Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 saw Ukraine’s Black Sea ports blocked by warships.
But a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 – and signed by Kyiv and Moscow – has allowed for the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies.
Ukraine was one of the world’s top producers, and the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped soothe the global food crunch triggered by the conflict.
The original terms Akar referred to – according to the deal – were for the 120-day extensions to be automatically renewed for the same period unless one of the parties says otherwise.
The initial agreement was extended in November until March 18, and should – in theory – be extended another 120 days after it expires at 11:59 pm Istanbul time Saturday (2059 GMT).
But on Monday, after a meeting with senior UN officials in Geneva, Moscow announced a proposal to extend the agreement for only 60 days.
Kyiv quickly made its displeasure clear, pointing out that the proposal departed from the period provided for in the original agreement, though Ukrainian officials were careful not to reject it out of hand.
By Friday, no one was able to say with any certainty what would happen when the deadline expired.
“We very much hope that the initiative will continue and the ships will continue to flow,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio