One day before it was set to expire, Russia has agreed to extend a deal that allows Ukraine to ship grain through the Black Sea to parts of the world with food insecurities.
According to reports, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension in a televised speech and it was later confirmed by Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations (UN).
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was brokered in July 2022 for an initial 120 days, with the last extension occurring in March. The agreement was set to expire May 18.
Discussions continue into Russia's objections
Russia has threatened several times not to extend the deal unless a list of its demands regarding its own agricultural exports was met.
Russia's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told Reuters the deal was extended because "we still do not lose hope that the problems that we are raising will be sorted out."
UN chief Guterres said outstanding issues remain, but representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN would continue discussions.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield rejected Russia's complaints saying the country "is exporting grain and fertilizer at the same levels, if not higher, than before the full scale invasion."
Ukraine cautiously welcomes extension
In early May, Russia had effectively stopped the Black sea grain deal by refusing to register incoming vessels. At the time, Ukraine's reconstruction ministry said 90 ships, including 62 vessels for loading, were waiting in Turkey's territorial waters for approval to go to Ukrainian ports.
Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook the country welcomes the continuation of the initiative, but emphasizes it must work effectively.
"To do this, it is necessary to eliminate the problems that Russia has been creating for several months in a row by sabotaging inspections and registration of a new fleet," said Kubrakov.
According to reports, 30.3 million tonnes of grain and foodstuffs has been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, including 625,000 tonnes in World Food Program vessels for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.