Historic deal to resume grain exports from Ukraine signed in Istanbul

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Russia and Ukraine are signing an agreement with Turkey and the United Nations on shipping Ukrainian grain, foodstuff, and fertilizer to international markets via the Black Sea in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022. (Xinhua/Shadati)

Russia and Ukraine signed a long-awaited deal here on Friday to safely transfer Ukrainian grain, foodstuff, and fertilizer to international markets under the supervision of the United Nations.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed respectively with Türkiye under the UN auspices, would allow significant volumes of commercial food and fertilizer exports from three key ports in the Black Sea -- Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny, the UN said in a statement on its website.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York, July 13, 2022. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday hailed what he called "substantive progress" in ensuring the export of Ukrainian food products through the Black Sea. (Xinhua/Xie E)

"It is a beacon of hope," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after attending the signing ceremony in Istanbul, adding "it will help avoid a food shortage catastrophe for millions worldwide ... It must be fully implemented."

The ceremony was also attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was committed to facilitating a solid outcome from rounds of talks his country hosted for Russia and Ukraine over the past two months.

"We are talking about 25 million tonnes of grain," Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters after the ceremony, noting that the need for a safe transport corridor to transfer these products by sea was urgent.

A Joint Coordination Center will be established in Istanbul to monitor implementation in Istanbul including representatives from Türkiye, Russia and Ukraine, said the UN statement.

According to a copy of the agreement released by Andrii Sybiha, deputy head of the Ukrainian President's Office, the deal will be effective for 120 days and can be renewed for the same duration unless one of the signing parties terminates.

"All properly identified and accredited trade vessels will be guaranteed safe passage from the three Ukrainian ports," and will be inspected by a team with members from all parties, it said.

Ukraine is among the world's leading grain exporters, supplying more than 45 million tons annually to the global market, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

UN reports revealed that more than 800 million people around the world at the moment directly face the possibility of hunger, and the numbers could rise.

Ukraine and Russia are breadbaskets of the world, producing almost one-third of the world's wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil. Russia is also a top global exporter of fertilizers and the raw materials for its production, Guterres' press office said in a note to correspondents. 

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