Ending a standoff that threatened food security around the world, Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements on Friday with Turkey and the United Nations clearing the way for exporting millions of tonnes of grain, AP reported. The deal will allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments to world markets and Russia to export grain and fertilisers.
Russia and Ukraine account for about 25 per cent of the world’s wheat exports. About 22 million tonnes of grain and other agricultural products have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to the war.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate deals with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar. The ceremony in Istanbul was witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The deal has provisions for the safe passage of ships. A control center will be established in Istanbul to run and coordinate the process. The center will be staffed by UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials. Ships will undergo inspections to ensure they are not carrying weapons, AP reported.
Addressing the Russian and Ukrainian representatives, Antonio Guterres said, “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.”
“You have overcome obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all,” AP quoted Guterres as saying.
Guterres said the deal would “bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine”.
“It will help stabilise global food prices which were already at record levels even before the war – a true nightmare for developing countries,” Guterres further said.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price welcomed the agreement. “But what we’re focusing on now is holding Russia accountable for implementing this agreement and for enabling Ukrainian grain to get to world markets. It has been for far too long that Russia has enacted this blockade,” AP quoted Price as saying.
Amid the crisis, India had on May 13 banned wheat exports to ensure domestic availability but has been allowing shipments to select countries as assistance.
The government has repeatedly maintained that there was no wheat crisis in the country, as India produces more wheat than its domestic requirement. Reports said wheat prices have increased by 14 per cent in the past six weeks due to dwindling of supplies.
(With agency inputs)