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Russia and Ukraine have agreed to renew the crucial Black Sea grain deal, which was due to expire within hours, officials from all sides said on Saturday following last-minute talks, but there was no confirmation on how long it would be extended.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first to confirm that the deal would continue beyond Sunday.

“Following our talks with both sides, we have secured the extension of the deal - that was about to end on March 19,” Erdogan said at an infrastructure event in Çanakkale, western Turkey.

Erdogan thanked Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations for their efforts to maintain the deal, which he described as “of vital importance for the stability of global food supply.” The UN later confirmed the extension and thanked Turkey for its diplomatic and organizational support.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the deal allowing Ukrainian grain to pass through the blockaded Black Sea was extended for 120 days - the same as when it was up for renewal in November.

Russia fired back, saying the grain arrangement would continue but only for another 60 days.“We have stated several times - both the Foreign Ministry and Russia’s permanent representative to the UN - that the Russian side has informed all parties to the agreement that it extends the deal by 60 days,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.The Black Sea Grain Initiative was first agreed to under the UN and Turkey’s mediation last July after tough negotiations and then extended in November - it was due to expire within hours if an agreement was not reached.

The deal frees millions of tons of grain and other foods that would otherwise be stuck in Ukraine due to Russia’s invasion and blockade. It allows for shipments via three Black Sea ports, with Turkey coordinating.More than 800 ships carried 25 million tons of grain to world markets so far as part of the deal, said Erdogan earlier.

Russia had repeatedly demanded the easing of Western sanctions on its agricultural sector in return for extending the grains deal. Food is not on the sanctions list.However, the sanctions restrict possibilities for loading and insuring ships and so indirectly affect the agricultural sector. Consequently, along with the original grain deal, a parallel agreement was made with Russia to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizer.

“We remain strongly committed to both agreements, and we urge all sides to redouble their efforts to implement them fully,” said the UN in a statement on Saturday.

Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other foods to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.Before it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia was also the world’s largest exporter of fertilizers.

The loss of these supplies after war broke out in February 2022 drove up global food prices and fuelled concerns of a hunger crisis in poorer countries.

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