Ukrainian grain ships transiting the Black Sea are unlikely to receive escort from Turkish warships, according to reports in US media on Tuesday. As the Black Sea grain deal allowing for the export of Ukrainian and Russian grain and fertilizers expired on Monday, Kiev finds itself grappling with the task of finding alternative means to transport its products to market.
Kiev had explored the option of appealing to Ankara for assistance, but an official familiar with the matter, who spoke with a US newspaper, stated that NATO ally Turkey is unlikely to undertake such a “highly risky move.” The statement followed Dmitry Skornyakov, CEO of Ukraine’s HarvEast Holding, emphasizing the importance of gaining Turkiye’s support.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations leadership to extend the grain deal without the involvement of Russia. Zelensky urged Ankara and the UN to take charge of ensuring the functioning of the food corridor and the inspection of ships.
Zelensky has persistently urged NATO to intervene directly in the ongoing 18-month conflict with Russia. However, the alliance has been cautious about engaging in direct confrontation and has instead chosen to provide weapons to Kiev, effectively turning the Ukrainian Armed Forces into a NATO proxy. Zelensky’s recent criticism of Western powers at a NATO summit in Lithuania reflected his frustration at not being granted alliance membership during the conflict.
The grain deal was initially brokered by the UN and Turkiye, which maintained a neutral stance despite arming Ukraine with combat drones and other weapons. While Ukrainian grain ships have not been targeted by Russian forces, concerns over potential risks have hindered the export of foodstuffs, leading to increased grain prices across Asia and Africa. Although the deal aimed to ease supply concerns and stabilize prices, its effectiveness has been limited.
Rather than renewing the grain deal, Moscow allowed it to expire on Monday. Russia ensured the safety of Ukrainian grain and fertilizer ships passing through the conflict zone but observed a lack of reciprocal efforts from international partners to guarantee the uninterrupted export of Russian products, particularly fertilizers.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that the UN has 90 days to normalize Russian agricultural exports, including reconnecting the Russian state-owned agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank to the SWIFT bank wire service. Failure to achieve this within the specified timeframe would result in Moscow ceasing efforts to revive the grain deal with Ukraine.
Earlier today, Russia declared that all cargo ships bound for Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea will be viewed as potential carriers of military cargo, effective July 20, 2023.
As Ukrainian grain shipments face challenges amidst the expiration of the Black Sea grain deal, the search for alternative solutions continues while the conflict with Russia persists.
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