By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- Early Sunday, the last ship under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, set sail from Ukraine’s port of Odessa, MarineTraffic.com reported along with a witness from Reuters, according to media reports. The grain agreement expires on July 17 and Russia hasn’t yet agreed to register any new ships since June 27 nor has it agreed to an extension. Russia is demanding that its agricultural shipments face no barriers for delivery as part of its condition to extend the grain deal which was brokered by the U.N. between Turkiye, Ukraine and Russia. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is still waiting for an answer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to a letter he sent Putin, urging him to extend the deal while telling Putin that he supports removing any barrier to Russia exporting its fertilizers. On Saturday, in a phone call to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Putin told him that no commitments have yet been met to remove obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer exports.
The grain deal gives assurances that ships entering and leaving Ukrainian ports will not be attacked while ships are searched by U.N., Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials to ensure they are shipping food and not weapons to either side. The deal, set up to be extended every 120 days, has so far been renewed three times with the last two renewals only for two months after Russia kept up its insistence that its exports were being held up. The grain agreement is crucial in decreasing global food prices for wheat and corn whose prices soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So far, Russia has refused to comment on Turkish President Erdogan’s recent statement regarding his hope the grain deal will be extended.