Counters are reset
By Nadia El Hachimi
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a set of two agreements sponsored by the United Nations and Turkey and concluded separately with Kyiv and Moscow in July 2022, was renewed last week after intensive negotiations.
Although they agreed on May 17 to extend the agreement for another sixty days, the talks between the four countries – Russia, Ukraine, the UN and Turkey – have reached several impasses. According to Moscow, more relevant.
Confirming the extension of the agreement until July 17, Russian diplomacy has, in effect, “unbalanced” implementation and “lack of concrete progress” as part of an initiative between Russia and the UN to end the deal.
From Russia’s point of view, the agreement was extended for another two months without any changes, “in response to calls, mainly from the Turkish partners as a party to the agreement”. “Our basic assessments of the implementation of the Istanbul Agreement remain the same – so far only the Black Sea Initiative is being implemented. (…) There is no concrete progress on the Russia-UN Memorandum”, confirmed Russian diplomacy in a press release, published the day after the initiative was renewed.
The other sticking point is the “declared humanitarian component of the agreement”, which means that “a good portion of grain exported by sea route goes mainly to high-income and above-average countries”.
Also Read: Black Sea Grain Initiative Renewed for Two Months
“Countries in need receive little: 722,000 tons (or 2.5%) of the total 30 million tons exported from Ukrainian ports in 9 months,” the ministry noted, paralleling the distribution of Russian products, even fertilizer donations to the poor. Countries, he said, “continue to face blocking sanctions”.
The Russian side also noted the “lack of progress” regarding the resumption of ammonia supplies, as provided for in the two Istanbul documents. “In particular, in relation to the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline, the UN Secretary-General dedicated his visit to Kiev on March 8, as well as a separate initiative, such as the Russia-UN memorandum, on paper” .
Added to these deadlocks were five demands made by Russia last April that were not met accordingly. Reconnecting Rosselkhozbank, a Russian bank specializing in agriculture, to the SWIFT international banking system, resuming agricultural machinery, spare parts and maintenance services, and removing barriers to shipping insurance and access to foreign ports.
These requirements relate to the resumption of operation of the Togliatti-Odessa pipeline and the freezing of assets of Russian companies connected to the agricultural sector located abroad.
“If these conditions are not met, the extension of the Black Sea Initiative is out of the question in principle, and the agreement will be terminated after July 17,” Moscow said.
Despite these various challenges, the future of the Black Sea Grain Initiative still looks uncertain, as it did before each extension of the agreement in November, March and May.
Will the grain initiative be extended beyond the first anniversary of July 22, 2023? The next two months should provide an opportunity for a new round of talks. The reset last Wednesday reset the counters of the Black Sea grain effort to zero.