Ukraine is to resume export of Black Sea grain after a deal with key European nations.
Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, UN secretary general, António Guterres, are to sign a deal today, (Friday) to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, the Turkish president’s office has said.
Russia and Ukraine are both major global wheat suppliers, but Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour has sent prices soaring and stoked an international food crisis. Kyiv’s exports have stalled, with dozens of ships stranded and about 20m tonnes of grain stuck in silos at the port of Odesa.
On Thursday night, the office of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said a general agreement was reached on a UN-led plan during talks in Istanbul last week and that it would now be put in writing by the parties. The details of the agreement were not immediately known. It is due to be signed on Friday at the Dolmabahce Palace offices, Erdoğan’s office said.
Before last week’s talks, diplomats said details of the plan included Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships in and out through mined port waters; Russia agreeing to a truce while shipments move; and Turkey – supported by the United Nations – inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of weapon smuggling.
The UN and Turkey have been working for two months to broker what Guterres called a “package” deal – to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports and facilitate Russian grain and fertiliser shipments. The US state department said on Thursday night it welcomed the deal “in principle” and was focused on holding Russia accountable for implementing the deal.
Ukraine appeared to sound a note of caution over the deal on Thursday night as its foreign ministry said that another round of UN-led would take place in Turkey on Friday. “In summary, a document may be signed which will bind the sides to (ensure) safe functioning of export routes in the Black Sea,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko told Reuters.
Nikolenko said the Ukrainian delegation at the talks would only support decisions that would guarantee the safety of Ukraine’s southern regions, “strong positions” of Ukraine’s armed forces in the Black Aea, and safe exports of Ukrainian agricultural produce.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, briefly mentioned the possible deal in his latest national address on Thursday evening, saying: “Tomorrow we also expect news for our state from Turkey – regarding the unblocking of our ports.”
Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister, Taras Vysotskiy, had said the country could restart exports quickly.
“The majority of the [Odesa port] infrastructure … remains, so it is a question of several weeks in the event there are proper security guarantees,” he told Ukrainian television.
Moscow has denied responsibility for worsening the food crisis, blaming instead western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining its Black Sea ports.
A day after the Istanbul talks last week, the US sought to facilitate Russian food and fertiliser exports by reassuring banks, shipping and insurance companies that such transactions would not breach Washington’s sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.