A Black Sea open to trade and which is not beholden to Russia is required, and an agreement – one which does not reward the aggressor nation for its actions – needs to be found to that end, President Alar Karis says.
Speaking via remote linkup at the second international summit Grain from Ukraine convened by President Volodymr Zelenskyy, the Estonian head of state said that: "Russia's decision to withdraw from the Black Sea grain initiative, the bombing of Ukrainian ports and the destruction of grain stores are all signs that it does not care about the global food crisis, and is in fact utilizing food shortages as a weapon."
Russia is also exploiting the Black Sea for its military and strategic interests and the development of illegal trade activities, while simultaneously hindering Ukraine's opportunities for trade. "The international community must support Ukraine in order to keep various grain transportation channels open," the president went on.
President Karis also expressed his appreciation over Ukraine's efforts to open the Black Sea trade corridor, adding that these efforts are complemented by alternative land routes as created by the EU. "Estonia is also offering its ports to be made available for grain transit to Ukraine, and is developing the Baltic Sea transport corridor," he went on.
"The capacity of Estonian ports to store and handle grain is strong," he added.
President Karis noted that last year, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and all that this entails – the sowing of minefields, missile and other strikes, and of course the blockading of ports – an area of arable land in Ukraine comparable in size to Belgium lay fallow, producing nothing.
In these difficult conditions, Ukraine is continuing to develop its agricultural sector, a sector which is also helping alleviate the global food crisis. "Ukraine's grain export initiative is vital; it is a sign of strong international unity and a desire to help," the head of state stressed.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was an agreement involving Turkey and the UN as well as Ukraine and Russia, signed July 22 for a period of 120 days (to November last year) aimed at the safe passage of Ukrainian grain from named ports along set channels across the Black Sea. In other words, vessels sailing these routes were guaranteed not to be attacked
The halt in these exports necessitated by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia led to soaring food prices on the world market, and the specter of famine in some third-world countries dependent on these grain exports.
The agreement was prolonged for another 120 days, to March 2023, and thereafter another 120 days, in two spans of 60 days, through to July this year.
However, Russia was upset that more of its demands had not been met, and the deal expired on July 17 without being renewed.
More than 1,000 voyages had successfully left Ukrainian ports and carrying nearly 33 million metric tons of grain and other food products, to over 40 countries, through the time period in which the agreement was valid.
Ukraine has since attempted to recreate or create new Black Sea shipping channels for its grain exports, and efforts at an international level to establish broader trans-Black Sea corridors are ongoing.
Editor: Andrew Whyte