Russia, Ukraine sign grain export deal in Istanbul, averting threat amid global food crisis

Russia, Ukraine sign grain export deal in Istanbul, averting threat amid global food crisis

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A deal was signed by Moscow and Kyiv Friday to allow for the safe export of grains and other food products from Ukraine as the world grapples with a mounting food crisis. 

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters. “The question has not been what is good for one side or the other. 

“The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world,” he continued. “And let there be no doubt – this is an agreement for the world.”

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) sit at the start of the signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022. 

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) sit at the start of the signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022.  (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations sealed an agreement that so that merchant ships can transport shipments through the Black Sea amid Russia’s deadly war in Ukraine.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this agreement did not come easy,” the UN chief said.

Guterres did not detail the exact agreement, but said three Ukrainian ports, Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny, will be opened in the Black Sea to allow for “significant volumes” food exports. 

Preliminary talks suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin would agree to a cease-fire to allow Ukrainian naval vessels to escort merchant ships.

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In this photo provided by Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, gives a speech to welcome the Russian, left, and Ukrainian delegations ahead of their talks, in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

In this photo provided by Turkish Presidency, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, gives a speech to welcome the Russian, left, and Ukrainian delegations ahead of their talks, in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

The Ukrainian naval vessels would be tasked with sweeping the waters for explosive mines – a precaution made necessary after roughly 400 mines were launched in the Black Sea by Russian forces earlier this year.

Moscow has also accused Kyiv of launching its own mines. 

Turkey, which has been instrumental in hosting the export negotiations, would be responsible for inspecting all ships to appease Russian concerns regarding arms smuggling. 

The UN would also establish an office in Istanbul to monitor the security situation.

Guterres said the deal “will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine.”

 “It will help stabilize global food prices which were already at record levels even before the war – a true nightmare for developing countries,” he added. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined Guterres at the signing ceremony and called on all parties to end the war in Ukraine. 

“We have been seeing from the very beginning that there will be no winner in this war,” he said. “Not only the parties, but the whole world will suffer.”

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) arrive for a signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022. 

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) arrive for a signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022.  (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Erdogan said it is his “sincerest hope” that the treaty signed Friday will signal a “turning point” in the war. 

“The war will finally end at the negotiating table,” he added in a call to Kyiv and Moscow to re-enter diplomatic talks. 

Victoria Nuland, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State Department, welcomed the news but said, “This came together because I think Russia ultimately felt the hot breath of global opprobrium.”

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado Friday, she said “It’s now incumbent on Russia to actually implement this deal.”