Ankara, May 13 (IANS) Negotiations to extend a Black Sea Grain Initiative were nearing an agreement after two days of talks in Istanbul between Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and UN officials, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has said.
“As part of the first information received, the meeting in Istanbul was positive. We are heading toward an agreement on the extension of the grain deal,” Akar said in a statement on Friday.
The Turkish minister noted that Turkey has commercial vessels in Ukrainian ports and the parties also have reached a framework agreement for the safe return of six ships to Turkey, Xinhua news agency reported.
A quadrilateral meeting was held in Istanbul on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the future of the initiative, which allows the export of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed separately by Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul with Turkey and the United Nations on July 22, 2022. Initially in effect for 120 days, the deal was extended in mid-November 2022 for another 120 days until March 18, 2023. At that point, Russia only agreed to extend the deal for 60 days until May 18, 2023.
The memorandum of understanding between Russia and the United Nations on the facilitation of exports of Russian food and fertiliser 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 fertiliser.