Agreement on the table frees millions of tons of grain from Ukrainian ports

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have agreed a deal to export millions of tonnes of stranded grain, Turkey announced, and will meet in Istanbul on Friday to pave the way for an end to Russia’s blockade. Ukraine’s Black Sea ports lasted many months.

Unless derailed at the last minute, the deal would allow an estimated 22 million tons of wheat, corn and other crops to be picked up by freighters from Ukraine’s coast and shipped around the world, avoiding worries. fear of a global food crisis.

The signing will be attended by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who played a key role in negotiating the agreement.

İbrahim Kalın, spokesman and adviser to Erdoğan, said the signing would be “very important for global grain security”.

The final text was agreed upon after Erdoğan meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Tehran earlier this week.

Although Russia has agreed not to attack Ukrainian cargo ships or ports as part of the deal, according to two people familiar with the writing, Kyiv remains highly skeptical of Russia’s motives and its ability to survive. at of the security guarantee.

A Ukrainian official close to the negotiations said: “Everybody is aware that something wrong could happen.

A senior Western diplomat also said that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between the United Nations and Russia on facilitating the export of food, fertilizers and raw materials used in production. fertilizer export.

Ukraine, fifth in the world-the largest wheat exporter and an essential supplier to countries across the Middle East and Africa, also feels increasingly urgent to strike an agreement to free up grain silos since this year’s harvest has begun. .

Under the deal, cargo ships going to and from Ukrainian ports will be inspected at surveillance sites in Turkey to assuage Moscow’s concerns that the ships could be used to smuggle weapons. , according to two people said.

A third, non-NATO country, not identified in the agreement, could provide minesweeping missions if needed to clear the way for cargo ships.

Speaking on his way back from a visit to Tehran on Tuesday, Erdoğan told journalists he was hopeful that the plan could begin to be implemented “in the coming days”. But some Western officials have warned that it could take longer before shipments resume.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry said: “Let’s wait and see.”

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