Deal struck on Ukraine grain exports
A deal to unblock much-awaited grain exports from Ukraine was signed at the UN-brokered talks in Istanbul, Turkey on Friday.
Under the terms of the deal, which was agreed provisionally last week, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the UN, and Turkey agreed to open a joint coordination center in Istanbul to oversee shipments from Ukraine, and to maintain safe transit routes for these shipments across the Black Sea.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar signed an agreement with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, while Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Aleksandr Kubrakov signed a separate document with Akar, completing the deal.
Guterres described the signing as “a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever,” and thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his “persistence” in getting the agreement signed. Guterres also praised Russian and Ukrainian officials for “putting aside [their] differences” for the sake of the world’s food supply, particularly in developing countries.
Wheat deliveries from Ukraine, a major producer, were disrupted after Russia launched its military operation in the neighboring state in late February. The sides previously blamed each other for causing the crisis.
Ukraine and some Western officials have accused Russia of deliberately preventing the shipments by blockading the country’s Black Sea ports. Moscow insists that Ukraine made the shipments impossible by laying naval mines outside of the ports, including Odessa.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned in March that delays in shipments of wheat from Ukraine and Russia could lead to “a hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system.”
He said that 45 African and other less developed countries receive at least a third of their wheat from either Ukraine or Russia, and that for 18 of them, these exports make up at least 50%.