The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) of the United Nations and Turkey has resumed inspections of outbound vessels for the safe export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea, according to a UN spokesperson. Russia has threatened to leave the agreement by May 18 over obstacles to its own grain and fertilizer exports. Senior officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN are set to meet in Istanbul to discuss the deal later this week. Moscow is demanding that obstacles to its own grain and fertilizer exports are removed before it agrees to extend the pact beyond May 18.
A three-year agreement was struck in July between the UN and Moscow to allow Ukraine to resume Black Sea grain exports in exchange for the UN’s help facilitating those shipments. However, Moscow has argued that restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have been a barrier to the shipments. In addition, Russia has refused to approve any new vessels to take part in the Black Sea deal unless the transits are completed by May 18.
The JCC was established by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN in Istanbul last year to oversee the monitoring of ships traveling in and out of the Black Sea. The inspection and monitoring regime was introduced following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, which created security concerns in the region. In the face of the global food crisis, the UN and Turkey brokered the Black Sea export agreement in July to aid Ukraine’s export of grain.
In an effort to continue the grains deal on May 18 without stoppage, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar described the talks leading up to the meeting as “positive.” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths is also traveling to Istanbul to discuss the matter.
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