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“A beacon of hope’: Ukraine, Russia sign grain export deal

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“A beacon of hope’: Ukraine, Russia sign grain export deal


ISTANBUL (AP) — Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the United Nations on Friday, clearing the way for the export of millions of tons of much-needed Ukrainian grain as well as Russian grain and fertilizers, ending a threat to food security in the surrounding area. Wartime stalemate worldwide.

The deal will enable Ukraine, one of the world’s main breadbaskets, to export 22 million tonnes of grain and other agricultural products stranded in Black Sea ports due to the Russian invasion. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called it a “beacon of hope” for millions of hungry people facing soaring food costs.

“An agreement to allow grain to leave Black Sea ports has been a lifesaver for people around the world struggling to feed their families,” said Red Cross director-general Robert Mardini, noting that the price of food staples over the past six months has risen sharply over the past six months. Sudan is up 187%, Syria is up 86%, Yemen is up 60% and Ethiopia is up 54%.

Witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov met with Gut at a ceremony in Istanbul Reis and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar signed the same agreement.

“Today, there is a lighthouse on the Black Sea,” Guterres said. “A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of deliverance in a world that needs it more than ever.”

“You overcame obstacles, put aside differences, and paved the way for an initiative in the common interest of all,” he told the Russian and Ukrainian envoys.

On Friday, Guterres described the deal as an unprecedented agreement between the two parties involved in the bloody conflict. Erdogan said he hoped the initiative would be “a new turning point that will revive hopes for peace.”

The EU and UK immediately welcomed the agreements.

“This is a critical step in overcoming global food insecurity caused by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “Its success will depend on the prompt and sincere implementation of today’s agreement.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Strath said the UK appreciates Turkey and the United Nations for brokering the deal.

“We will be watching closely to make sure Russia is acting in line with its words and deeds,” Truss said. “In order for global security and economic stability to be lastingly restored, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin must end the war and withdraw troops from Ukraine.”

Ukraine is one of the world’s top exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but a Russian invasion of the country and a naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments. Some Ukrainian grain is shipped to Europe by rail, road and river, but prices for vital commodities such as wheat and barley have soared in the nearly five-month war.

Guterres said the plan, known as the Black Sea Initiative, opened the way for massive commercial food exports from Ukraine’s three main ports: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.

“This will help stabilize global food prices, which were already at record levels before the war – a real nightmare for developing countries,” Guterres added.

The agreement provides for the safe passage of ships through heavily exploited waters. A coordination center will be established in Istanbul, staffed by officials from the United Nations, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, to monitor ships and run processes through specific corridors. Ships will be inspected to ensure they are not carrying weapons.

A senior U.N. official said cargo ships would use Ukrainian-identified “safe lanes” when entering and leaving the port and would be guided by Ukrainian pilots. The plan did not foresee further demining of Ukraine’s territorial waters, which would delay the process.

The official said warships would not be used for escort, but minesweepers would be on standby in case safe passage “needs occasional verification.”

Vessels entering Ukrainian ports will be inspected by inspection teams that will include representatives of all parties involved to ensure that there are no weapons on board. The unloading of grain onto ships will also be monitored.

A key element of the deal, according to the official, was an agreement between Russia and Ukraine that there would be no attacks on any ships.

Noting that the deal is still several weeks away from being fully effective, the official said it will take Ukraine about 10 days to prepare the port and time to “identify and clear these safe passages.”

Until then, initial movements of the ships are possible “just to show they can work,” the official said.

The goal, according to UN officials, is to export about 5 million tonnes of grain a month in order to empty Ukraine’s granaries in time for a new harvest. The agreement is renewable for 120 days.

Guterres first raised the urgent need to return Ukrainian agricultural production and Russia’s food and fertilizers to world markets during a meeting in Kyiv in late April with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Moscow.

He proposed a package deal in early June amid concerns that the war is jeopardizing food supplies in many developing countries and could exacerbate hunger for as many as 181 million people.

Before the deal, Russian and Ukrainian officials blamed each other for blocked grain shipments. Moscow has accused Ukraine of failing to clear its ports to secure shipping and insists it has the right to inspect incoming ships for weapons. Ukraine argues that Russian port blockades and missile launches from the Black Sea make any safe transport impossible.

Ukraine has sought international assurances that the Kremlin will not use the security corridor to attack the key Black Sea port of Odessa. Ukrainian authorities have also accused Russia of stealing grain from eastern Ukraine and deliberately shelling Ukrainian fields and setting them on fire.

Voladimir Sidenko, an expert at the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center think tank, noted that Ukraine did not raise the issue of stealing food from the occupied territories during the talks.

“Obviously, this was part of the deal: Kyiv did not raise the issue of the theft of food, and Moscow did not insist on inspecting Ukrainian ships. Kyiv and Moscow were forced to reach agreements and compromises on many differences,” he said.

Analysts noted that the deal is also important for Russia’s geopolitical ties.

“Russia has decided not to trigger a new crisis in Africa, where it will trigger starvation and a change of government,” Sidenko said. “The African Union demands that Putin quickly ease the crisis through food supplies and put pressure on the Kremlin, which has interests in Africa.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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