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The UN-backed agreement that allowed Ukraine to export grain and other foodstuffs during the ongoing Russian invasion is set to expire on Monday with no announced plans to renew it.
The agreement known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, reached last July, allowed international shipments of corn, wheat, barley and other food products from three designated ports in Ukraine, which was dubbed the “breadbasket of Europe”.
Experts say the deal – while incomplete – helped avert a worsening of global hunger and prevented food prices from rising around the world. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the deal as a “beacon of hope” when It was signed last summer.
Now his future is unclear. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that part of the agreement that would have eased similar exports from his country has not been fulfilled.
According to the Kremlin, Putin said, in a phone call with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Saturday, that Russia still faces obstacles in exporting food and fertilizers, in contrast to the commitments contained in the deal that were supposed to lift such barriers.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the deal, said on Friday he believed Putin would renew the deal.
Erdogan told reporters he had spoken to the Russian president on the phone and that he and Putin were “on the same page” when it came to extending the deal. Deutsche Welle reported.
On Saturday, the United Nations announced that in almost a year since the agreement was concluded, ships have made 1,003 voyages from the three Ukrainian ports carrying a total of 32.8 million tons of grain and other food products.
45 countries have received shipments of grain from Ukraine under this initiative. Asia saw 46% of the imports, 40% to Western Europe, 12% to Africa and 1% to Eastern Europe.
The ship that left Odessa port early Sunday morning was the last ship to leave Ukraine in the final hours of the current agreement. Reuters reported.
The United Nations said the deal also allowed for the export of fertilizers from Ukraine, though none were shipped.
In May, the two sides agreed to extend the agreement for another two months, though Russia also complained at the time that sanctions and other restrictions hampered the country’s trading capabilities.
NPR’s Peter Kenyon contributed reporting.
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