A “basic, technical” deal was struck between Russia and Ukraine on moving essential grains out of the blocked Black Seaports, per Turkey’s government, which has been striving to broker an important deal.
The positive step so far, announced by Hulusi Akar, Ankara’s Defense Minister, followed discussions in Istanbul between the parties months after the deadlock. Shipments of grains from Ukraine via the Black Sea ports stopped when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022.
Millions of tons of grain needed to feed import-dependent countries like Africa and the Middle East are sitting in storage with rising food prices.
Akar mentioned that the initial deal revolves around resolving technical details, including establishing a coordination center in Istanbul where representatives of all the parties involved would be present; joint controls at port arrival and exit points; and establishing navigational safety.
Akar mentioned that the parties seem willing to solve the issue. He added that a final deal would be signed in coordination with the UN, and another meeting would be conducted in Turkey next week to mark the finalized agreement.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s President, was more reserved after Wednesday’s discussions, though he mentioned in his nightly address that his delegates had informed of “some progress.”
He added that significant efforts to restore food supply in the world market are happening and that they will likely agree to the details with the UN secretary-general soon.
Ukraine would be vulnerable to attacks if it removed the mines protecting its ports and blocking their access to the sea. To strike a deal, Ukraine has mentioned that Russia needs to assure that it won’t hit the ports or grain ships as they start operating again.
António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said that various sides had reached “substantive agreement” on many aspects of unblocking the Black Sea trade, related to multiple mechanisms of control, the system of coordination, and mining questions.
He also mentioned that Istanbul had witnessed a critical step in ensuring the safe and secure export of Ukraine’s food products via the Black Sea. In a world that is darkened by global crises, at last, there is a ray of hope.
He added that more technical efforts were required to secure the final deal; however, the momentum is crystal clear.
Guterres was, however, more cautious on whether a final agreement will be signed next week.
He cautioned that he didn’t view the initial deal as a particular sign of Russia ending the ongoing war in Ukraine.
References: Urdu Point, The Hindu, The Guardian, Politico