ANKARA, July 22 (AP) Turkish officials said an agreement on a United Nations plan to freeze Ukrainian grain exports amid the war and allow Russia to export grain and fertilizer will be signed in Istanbul on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said he, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and officials from Russia and Ukraine would oversee the signing ceremony. It did not provide further details.
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“The grain export agreement, which is crucial for global food security, will be signed tomorrow in Istanbul under the auspices of President Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Mr. Guterres with Ukrainian and Russian representatives,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a tweet.
Guterres is working on a plan that would enable Ukraine to export millions of tons of grain stockpiles stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports because of the war – a move that could ease a global food crisis that has sent prices of wheat and other grains soaring. At least 22 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine due to aerial warfare.
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Last week, the parties met in Istanbul, reaching a tentative agreement on the plan. Turkish officials said it foresees a system to ensure joint control of plants and safety of transit routes as ships leave and arrive at Black Sea ports.
A coordination center for export shipping will be established in Istanbul and will include UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haque said Guterres arrived in Istanbul on Thursday, meaning “we are moving forward” on the deal. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, whom Guterres has put in charge of the Ukraine side of the deal, and Rebecca Greenspan, head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, whom he has put in charge of the Russian side of the deal, were also in Istanbul.
“We are working around the clock with countless moving parts and deep behind-the-scenes discussions,” Haque said.
With the growing global food crisis, Hoque said that if an agreement was reached “we could potentially save hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of people, from putting the cost of food out of their reach.”
Russian and Ukrainian officials blamed each other for the halted grain shipments.
Moscow has accused Ukraine of failing to remove sea mines in ports to allow safe shipping. Russia has also insisted on the right to inspect incoming ships for weapons.
Ukraine has sought international guarantees that the Kremlin will not use safe corridors for grain shipments to attack Ukraine’s main Black Sea port of Odessa. Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of stealing and selling grain from its eastern regions and deliberately setting Ukrainian fields on fire.
A Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on the Turkish announcement. Dmitry Peskov said it was a question for the “(Russian) military.” (AP)
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