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Deal to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports

file photo: workers storage grain at a terminal during barley harvesting in odesa region
FILE PHOTO: Workers storage grain at a terminal during barley harvesting in Odesa region

Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will sign a deal on Friday to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said on Thursday.

Russia and Ukraine are both major global wheat suppliers, but Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor has sent food prices soaring and stoked an international food crisis. The war has stalled Kyiv’s exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos at Odesa port.

Ankara said a general agreement was reached on a U.N.-led plan during talks in Istanbul last week and that it would now be put in writing by the parties. Details of the agreement were not immediately known. It is due to be signed on Friday at the Dolmabahce Palace offices at 1330 GMT, Erdogan’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 weapons smuggling.

The United Nations 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 fertilizer shipments.

Ukraine could potentially quickly restart exports, Ukraine’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy said earlier on Thursday.

“The majority of the infrastructure of ports of wider Odesa – there are three of them – remains, so it is a question of several weeks in the event there are proper security guarantees,” he told Ukranian television.

Moscow has denied responsibility for worsening the food crisis, blaming instead a chilling effect from Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining its Black Sea ports.

A day after the Istanbul talks last week, the United States sought to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports by reassuring banks, shipping and insurance companies that such transactions would not breach Washington’s sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

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