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Ukraine Black Sea grain export deal extended, UN and Turkey says

An agreement allowing Ukraine to ship grain from its Black Sea ports expired on Saturday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the United Nations have announced that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported across the Black Sea, which was due to expire on Saturday, has been extended.

The deal was finalized after talks with Russia and Ukraine, Erdogan said in a speech in the western city of Canakkale on Saturday, but did not specify how long the extension of the deal was.

Russia said it had agreed to a 60-day extension, while Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said the deal had been extended by 120 days.

The agreement between the two warring sides, negotiated in July by Turkey and the UN, has seen more than 11 million tons of agricultural products shipped from three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, including 4.5 million tons of corn and 3.2 million tons of wheat.

“This deal is vital for the global food supply,” Erdogan said in televised comments. “I thank Russia and Ukraine, who have not spared their efforts for another extension, as well as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.”

Before the war, Ukraine was one of the world’s largest agricultural producers, and the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative helped mitigate the global food crisis caused by the conflict.

“Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of sunflower oil, including wheat and grain,” said Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Dekker from the outskirts of Kiev. “What is produced here – and what is exported – has a direct effect on food prices around the world.”

During the large-scale invasion of Russia in February last year, Ukraine’s Black Sea ports were blockaded by warships.

But the grain deal has ensured the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies to combat a global food crisis. The initial agreement was extended for 120 days in November.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the latest extension was for another 120 days. Ankara had previously said it wanted a 120-day extension, while Russia favored a 60-day extension.

Kubrakov thanked the UN and Turkey for honoring the grain deal.

“(The) Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement is extended for 120 days,” Kubrakov said on Twitter. “Grateful to Antonio Guterres, the United Nations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (Defense) Minister Hulusi Akar and all our partners for sticking to the agreement.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “We are seeing reports from parties to the ‘grain deal’ that the deal has been extended for 120 days.

“We have repeatedly stated … that the Russian side has informed all parties to the deal that it is extending the deal for 60 days,” Zakharova said in remarks from the Interfax news agency.