Excavators work at a grain port in Izmail, Ukraine, April 26, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
UNITED NATIONS – The last ship left a port in Ukraine on Wednesday under a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain a day before Russia could quit the pact over obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports.
The DSM Capella has left the port of Chornomorsk carrying 30,000 tonnes of corn and was on its way to Türkiye, according to data issued by the United Nations.
The United Nations and Türkiye brokered the Black Sea deal for an initial 120 days in July last year to help tackle a global food crisis that has been aggravated by Moscow's special military operations in Ukraine, one of the world's leading grain exporters.
Moscow agreed to extend the Black Sea pact for a further 120 days in November, but then in March it agreed to a 60 day extension – until May 18 – unless a list of demands regarding its own agricultural exports was met.
While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed following the conflict in Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments
To convince Russia in July to allow Black Sea grain exports, the United Nations agreed at the same time to help Moscow with its own agricultural shipments for three years.
"There are still a lot of open questions regarding our part of the deal. Now a decision will have to be taken," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, according to Russian media.
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Senior officials from Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the UN met in Istanbul last week to discuss the Black Sea pact. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday: "Contacts are going on at different levels. We're obviously in a delicate stage."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week he thought the deal could be extended for at least two more months.
While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed following the conflict in Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments.
In this file photo dated Oct 11, 2022, a crew member prepares a grain analysis for a control made by members of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) onboard the Barbados-flagged ship "Nord Vind" coming from Ukraine, loaded with grain and anchored in Istanbul. (PHOTO / AFP)
In an excerpt of a letter seen by Reuters last month, Russia told its counterparts from the Joint Coordination Centre that it will not approve any new vessels to take part in the Black Sea deal unless the transits will be done by May 18 – "the expected date of … closure"
Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the UN make up a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, which implements the Black Sea export deal. They authorize and inspect ships. No new vessels have been authorized by the JCC since May 4.
Authorized ships are inspected by JCC officials near Türkiye before traveling to a Ukrainian Black Sea port via a maritime humanitarian corridor to collect their cargo and return to Turkish waters for a final inspection.
In an excerpt of a letter seen by Reuters last month, Russia told its JCC counterparts that it will not approve any new vessels to take part in the Black Sea deal unless the transits will be done by May 18 – "the expected date of … closure."
It said this was "to avoid commercial losses and prevent possible safety risks" after May 18.
It appears unlikely that any ship owners or insurance companies would be willing to continue transporting Ukrainian grain exports if Russia does not agree to an extension of the deal and decides to quit.
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The United Nations, Türkiye and Ukraine did continue the Black Sea agreement in October during a brief suspension by Russia of its participation.
Some 30.3 million tonnes of grain and foodstuffs has been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, including 625,000 tonnes in World Food Programme vessels for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.