Turkish Defense Minister signals extension of grain deal
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Sunday signaled the continuation of the Black Sea grain deal, which expires on March 18, after Russia hinted that hurdles could arise.
"Both sides (Russia and Ukraine) have a positive attitude, and we believe it will be extended," Hulusi Akar said in an interview with editors of Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.
"We believe that the term will be extended on March 18," he added.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered last July by the United Nations and Turkey between Russia and Ukraine, the world's top two grain and fertilizer suppliers, aims to prevent a global food crisis by allowing the safe export of Ukrainian grain blocked by the Russian invasion from three Ukrainian ports.
Akar said nearly 24 million tons of grain were delivered to those in need via the deal.
The agreement was extended for 120 days in November and will be renewed on March 18 if no party objects. However, Moscow has already signaled that it will agree to an extension only if restrictions on its own exports are lifted.
Russia's agricultural exports have not been explicitly targeted by the West, but Moscow says sanctions against its payments, logistics, and insurance industries are an obstacle to exporting its own grain and fertilizer.
Russia has also complained that Ukrainian grain exported under the deal is going to wealthy countries.