Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish military delegations are looking forward to meeting UN officials in Istanbul on Wednesday (July 13) to negotiate a possible deal to help Ukraine resume safe exports of grain from Odesa’s major Black Sea port as the global food crisis worsens.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar announced the latest talks on Tuesday; Turkey has been working with the United Nations to conduct a deal on Ukraine-fuelled prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer after Russia’s illegal invasion since February 24.
In an interview, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “We are working hard indeed, but there is still a way to go; many people are talking about it. We prefer to try and do it.”
Diplomats elaborated the plan under discussion, including Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships in and out through mined port waters; Russia agreed to a ceasefire while shipments move, and Turkey-backed by the United Nations, inspected ships to allay Russian fears of arms smuggling.
Ukraine on Tuesday raised hopes of an increase in grain exports despite Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports, noting that ships had passed through an important estuary of the Danube River.
Ukraine and Russia are major international wheat suppliers, and Russia is a vast fertilizer exporter, while Ukraine is a prominent producer of corn and sunflower oil.
Russia’s invasion and sea blockade of Ukraine has stalled exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and more than 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos at Odesa.
The coming harvest is also at risk as Ukraine is now short of storage space due to the halt in exports.