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Russia, Ukraine Reach Breakthrough Over Blocked Grain Exports: UN Chief
Is this the beginning of a solution to the Ukraine grain export impasse which has been threatening to put large swathes of dependent populations across the Middle East and Africa on the brink of famine?
On Wednesday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that warring powers are on the cusp of a deal to free up Black Sea exports after multiple intense rounds of talks in Istanbul, saying an “important and substantive step” was made towards reaching a comprehensive agreement.
“Next week, hopefully, we’ll be able to have a final agreement. But, as I said, we still need a lot of goodwill and commitments by all parties,” Guterres said from UN headquarters in New York. He qualified that despite this rare instance of Ukraine and Russia engaging the other in negotiations, it remains that “for peace we still have a long way to go.”
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also confirmed that a deal is close, saying it would be signed next week, when both sides are expected to meet again. Moscow and Kiev have reportedly agreed to “joint controls for checking grains at harbors” – though details of the draft deal haven’t been fully revealed.
The BBC additionally reported that talks are appearing to focus on neutral external parties – such as Turkey for example – safeguarding international vessels through the Black Sea:
Talks on opening up a “green corridor” through the Black Sea took place in Turkey on Wednesday. But any agreement will require support from President Vladimir Putin, who meets Turkey’s president in Iran on 19 July.
And Bloomberg sources revealed the following:
Talks were held in Istanbul with representatives from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, plus the United Nations. The sides agreed on the “main technical principles,” Turkey’s defense minister said in a statement.
Ukrainian and Russian delegations will meet again in Turkey next week to further discuss details, Turkey said. There has been no statement issued yet from Kyiv or Moscow. The parties agreed to form a coordination center, among other discussion points, Turkey said.
Further, according to Al Jazeera citing two sources privy to the Istanbul talks, the parties “are close to a deal or perhaps they even have a deal.”
In a Spring forecast by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, it was estimated that the globe will see a 20% decline in global wheat production this year due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, where the country’s Ministry of Agriculture recently warned a third of the country’s farmland is occupied or unsafe.
The issue of a theoretical deal being reached vs. the reality of actually executing it remains an entirely different question, given the presence of thousands of mines around many of Ukraine’s key ports. Russia has put the issue in central focus as it has sought to combat accusations from the West that it alone is to blame for the blockade of crucial wheat supplies from the country. The Kremlin has laid fundamental blame for the crisis on Ukraine’s military mining its own ports.