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ISTANBUL —Turkey will continue discussions to extend a deal that allows grain shipments from Ukraine's Black Sea ports for 120 days rather than 60 days, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday.
"We started negotiations in line with the initial version of the deal. The continuation of the deal is important. We will continue our contacts [regarding its extension for] 120 days instead of two months," Akar said according to a statement by the defense ministry.
Parties of the deal will evaluate and decide on a further extension of the agreement, Akar also said, adding that Ankara hoped for a positive outcome.
The deal reached in July last year created a protected sea transit corridor and was designed to alleviate global food shortages by allowing exports to resume from three ports in Ukraine, a major producer of grains and oilseeds.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Wednesday, and Moscow said it was counting on the elaboration of an "overall" deal taking into account concerns about its own farm and fertilizer exports.
"[Russia's] position was confirmed concerning the need to achieve the full and good-neighborly implementation of the U.N. general secretary on ensuring free access to world markets for Ukrainian grain and Russian fertilizer and foodstuffs," the foreign ministry said on its website.
Since Russia and Ukraine signed the U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative in Turkey on July 22, millions of tons of grain and other food products have been exported from Ukrainian ports, helping lower global food prices from record highs.
As the talks continued, Russia suggested allowing the deal to be renewed for 60 days, half the term of the previous renewal, but Ukraine rejected it.