Amid a growing global food crisis, the United Nations (UN) and Turkey have signed separate agreements with Russia and Ukraine, to claar the export of desperately needed grain and fertilizers through the Black Sea
The pacts, signed on Friday, will enable the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain, as well as Russian grain and fertilizer.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. At least 22 million tons of grain are stuck due to Russia blockade of the Black Sea.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been trying to free up Ukrainian grain that has been stuck in Black Sea ports for months, amidst the standoff between Russia and Ukraine.
The Russian blockage of millions of tons of grain has led to global food shortages, especially in Africa and Asia
But Friday brokered food security agreements, saw the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate deals with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever. You have overcome obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all”, Guterres said to Russian and Ukrainian representatives.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the signing ceremony in Istanbul.
Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, but the Russian invasion has blocked shipments, sending the price of food soaring and plunging millions into food insecurity worldwide. The U.N. has warned shortages could push some countries to the edge of famine.
But the new deal will enable Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products that have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to the war.
“The fact that two parties at war, and still very much at war, have been able to negotiate … these kinds of commercial agreements to help the world, which is suffering from that war, I think that’s unprecedented. It’s an extraordinary achievement”, the U.N.’s emergency relief coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said before the deal was signed.
The plan represents a de facto cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia along identified shipping routes, and is a big breakthrough, symbolically at least. However, similar agreements have failed in the past amid mutual mistrust and accusations of violations, raising questions about the viability of the scheme.
Addressing the Russian and Ukrainian representatives, Guterres said they had “overcome obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all.”
Guterres added that the accord opened the way to significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports, Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. The U.N. would set up a coordination center to monitor implementation of the deal, he added.
Russia and Ukraine supply more than half of the world’s sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat, the U.N. said.
The agreement will see Ukrainian pilot vessels lead merchant ships through minefields in and out of Ukrainian ports, allowing shipments through the Black Sea and out through the Bosporus.