ANKARA - Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Sunday that he believes that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea will be extended from its current March 18 deadline.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered between Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey last July, aimed to prevent a global food crisis by allowing Ukrainian grain blockaded by Russia's invasion to be safely exported from three Ukrainian ports.
The deal was extended for 120 days in November and will renew on March 18 if no party objects. However, Moscow has already signalled it will only agree to an extension if restrictions affecting its own exports are lifted.
Turkey has said previously that it is working hard to extend the deal. "In separate talks with the Russian and Ukrainian sides, we saw that both sides are approaching this positively. We believe it will conclude positively," Akar said in an interview with state-owned Anadolu Agency.
"We have the opinion that the duration will be extended on March 18," he added.
Russia's agricultural exports have not been explicitly targeted by the West, but Moscow says sanctions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are a barrier to it being able to export its own grains and fertilisers.
Russia has complained that Ukrainian grain exported under the deal is going to wealthy countries.
Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of grains and fertilisers. (Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Sharon Singleton)