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Turkey says it is working to renew Black Sea grain deal

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Sunday that Ankara is working hard to extend a UN-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia following its invasion, Reuters reported.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July allowed grain to be exported from three Ukrainian ports. The agreement was extended in November and will expire on March 18 unless an extension is agreed.

“We are working hard for the smooth implementation and further extension of the Black Sea grain deal,” Çavuşoğlu said in a speech at the United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries being held in Doha, Qatar.

Russia has said it would only agree to extend the Black Sea grain deal if the interests of its own agricultural producers are taken into account.

On Sunday, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, reiterated this position.

“If this agreement is equal, then we have always fulfilled our part and are going to fulfil it in all the agreements,” she said according to TASS news wire, adding that Russia would be against “goading and machinations”.

Russia’s agricultural exports have not been explicitly targeted by Western sanctions, but Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are a “barrier” to it being able to export its own grains and fertilizers.

Çavuşoğlu said he also discussed efforts to discuss the extension of the deal with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Almost 23 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported via the Black Sea Grain Initiative as of March 3, according to the Joint coordination Centre in Turkey which oversees implementation of the deal.

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