The United Nations on Thursday supported Türkiye and Ukraine by requesting a 120-day extension of an agreement that enables the secure shipment of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
The call comes after Russia's announcement that it would only prolong the key pact for half of that term.
The pact is due to expire on Saturday. It was brokered with Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Türkiye in July – and renewed in November – to combat a global food crisis that was fueled in part by Russia's Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of neighboring Ukraine and blockade of its Black Sea grain exports.
"For us, the text in the agreement is clear and it calls for a 120-day rollover," U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told Reuters when asked about remarks by Türkiye.
Türkiye said Wednesday that it would continue talks to extend the deal for 120 days rather than 60. Ukraine has also said the agreement should be renewed for 120 days.
"The deal is being extended for 60 days," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday when asked to comment on Dujarric's remarks.
The difference in the Russian and U.N. interpretation of the duration of the deal "may simply be a display of (the U.N.'s) incompetence," she added.
Dujarric later said that "discussions are ongoing." Senior U.N. and Russian officials met in Geneva on Monday.
While Russia has not specifically said why it only wants a 60-day renewal, it has complained that its own food and fertilizer exports are being hindered by Western sanctions.
To help persuade Russia to allow Ukraine to resume its Black Sea grain exports last year, a three-year deal was also struck in July in which the United Nations agreed to help facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports.
Western powers have hit Russia with tough sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. While its food and fertilizer exports are not under sanctions, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance industries are a barrier to such shipments.
"Meaningful progress has been made but it is true that some obstacles remain, notably with regard to payment systems. Our efforts to overcome those obstacles will continue unabated," Dujarric said on Tuesday.
Ukraine has so far exported nearly 25 million tons of mainly corn and wheat under the deal, according to the United Nations. The top primary destinations for shipments have been China, Italy, Spain, Türkiye and the Netherlands.
When asked on Thursday about Russia's proposal for a 60-day extension, China – a strategic partner of Moscow – called for the deal to be implemented in a balanced and comprehensive manner.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also said China would like to strengthen communication with all parties and enhance global food security.