Ukraine rejects deal with Russia on shipping in the Black Sea

Russia and Ukraine negotiated for two months over the safety of shipping in the Black Sea and reached an agreement that Kyiv refused to sign at the very last minute, four knowledgeable sources told Reuters.

The talks were mediated by Turkey and backed by the UN, they said. The agreement was reached in March, but Ukraine did not want to sign it officially. Despite this, Turkish President Recep Erdogan got Kyiv to agree to let him announce the deal on March 30, the day before important regional elections in Turkey (which Erdogan’s party lost).

“At the very last minute, Ukraine suddenly refused and the deal was scrapped”, one of the interlocutors told Reuters. The agency’s sources could not give the reason for Kyiv’s refusal.

The text of the agreement, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said that Turkey “as part of its mediation efforts” reached agreements with Ukraine and Russia “to ensure the free and safe navigation of merchant ships in the Black Sea” in accordance with the Montreux Convention on the Straits Regime. The 1936 document gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles and the authority to regulate the transit of naval ships. The convention also guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime and restricts the passage of vessels not belonging to Black Sea countries.

Both Moscow and Kyiv, under the agreement to be announced by Turkey, would have offered security guarantees to merchant ships in the Black Sea, pledging not to strike, seize or search them as long as they were either empty or declared to be carrying civilian rather than military cargo. The agreement was to enter into force “from the date of the declaration”, the text stated.

Prior to that, Turkey and the UN mediated the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The grain deal was concluded in July 2022 and expired on July 18, 2023, as Russia did not agree to another extension. The deal allowed Ukraine to export grain and other agricultural products from three ports on the Black Sea. Vladimir Putin said the conditions for returning to the agreement included reconnecting Rosselkhozbank to the SWIFT system, access for Russian ships to foreign ports, reopening the Togliatti–Odessa ammonia pipeline and supplying the country with agricultural equipment.

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