By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL-Monday, July 17 was the deadline when the Black Sea Grain Initiative was set to expire with hopes that Russia would back down from its refusal to renew the deal unless its demands were met. The deal which expires at midnight on Monday was the main topic that Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres discussed via phone, on Monday after Russia said it was allowing the agreement to lapse. Russia’s reason for backing out of the deal is Kremlin’s insistence that the Russian section of the agreement was not active. Guterres, who spoke to the media on Monday commented: “Today’s decision by the Russian Federation will strike a blow to people in need everywhere.” Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan said that he believes Putin wants to continue with the agreement regardless of how the situation appears. Erdogan said the Black Sea grain deal had been a diplomatic success and that his government feels it’s crucial for it to continue which is why Turkiye has intensified diplomatic efforts to that end.
After Russia’s announcement on Monday, the EU, the U.S. and Germany as well as the U.N. chief, voiced their concern with Guterres explaining that the U.N. will try to facilitate uninterrupted access to global markets for food and fertilizers from Ukraine and Russia. As Guterres lamented: “Hundreds of millions of people face hunger and consumers are confronting a global cost-of-living crisis. They will pay the price.” Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell condemned Russia’s withdrawal, commenting that it’s “completely unjustified,” echoing Guterres’s warning about a global food security crisis. Borrell also criticized Russia’s claims that EU sanctions are preventing agricultural exports as “complete nonsense.” The Biden administration chimed in, stating that this “will worsen food security and harm millions.” In a statement, from White House National Security Council spokesperson Adam Hoge, he read: “We urge the Government of Russia to immediately reverse its decision.”
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia “sends a bad message” by refusing to agree to renewing the deal and added: “But everyone will understand what is behind it, namely an acion that has a lot to do with the fact that Russia does not feel responsible for good coexistence in the world.” Russia’s chief complaint, it claims is to remove obstacles to exporting its fertilizers and it is demanding the renewed agreement include its state-owned Russian Agricultural Bank in the SWIFT international payment system. According to reports, Ukraine’s President Zelensky is weighing several different ports as options to get the grain out from Ukraine. At issue is the fact that by withdrawing from the grain deal, Russia has also withdrawn security guarantees on navigation in the northwesterrn part of the Black Sea. Under the U.N.-brokered deal, it guaranteed safe passage for over 32 million metric tons of foodstuff from Ukrainian ports.