A diplomatic agreement that restarted Ukraine’s maritime food exports will continue for at least another four months, Ukraine and the United Nations said Thursday.
The deal to unlock Ukraine’s ports amid Russia’s war on the country was brokered by the U.N. and Turkey over the summer. The initiative — technically formed of two agreements, each bolstering Ukraine and Russia’s food exports — only lasts until Saturday, and Russia has made repeated threats to abandon it, even suspending participation for a few days earlier this month.
“Black Sea Grain Initiative will be prolonged for 120 days,” Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a tweet. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also tweeted about the extension, but Russia and Turkey are yet to publicly confirm it.
In a statement, U.N. chief António Guterres welcomed the agreement “by all the parties” to renew the deal.
A person close to the negotiations said the agreement will roll over under exactly the same conditions that were agreed back in July. On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed confidence that the deal would continue.
Amid weeks of negotiations on the future of the deal, Ukraine has been pushing to expand the scope of the agreement and, along with Turkey, extend it for a one-year period, whereas Russia has pressed for more flexibility for its own exports of food and fertilizers.
In his statement, Guterres said: “The United Nations is also fully committed to removing the remaining obstacles to exporting food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation.”
The four-month extension of the deal is good news for the world’s poorest countries, many of which rely on unimpeded grain flows from Ukraine. But it creates a new political deadline in March next year for extending the deal again.