Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and UN meet on grain exports

ISTANBUL: Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish military delegations met with UN officials in Istanbul on Wednesday for talks on resuming Ukrainian grain exports from the main Black Sea port of Odessa as the global food crisis escalates. ‘worsen.

Turkey worked with the United Nations to broker a deal after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine drove up the prices of grain, cooking oil, fuel and fertilizer. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced the final talks on Tuesday.

The Interfax news agency quoted the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that Moscow presented a set of proposals for a “quick practical resolution of this issue” at Wednesday’s meeting.

It was not immediately clear if any progress had been made during the talks.

“We are working hard, but there is still a long way to go,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday. “A lot of people talk about it. We prefer to try to do it.

Ukraine and Russia are the world’s main suppliers of wheat, and Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizers, while Ukraine is a major producer of corn and sunflower oil.

Diplomats say details of the plan being discussed include Ukrainian ships guiding grain ships through mined waters of the port; Russia agrees to truce while expeditions move; and Turkey – backed by the United Nations – inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of arms smuggling.

Interfax news agency quoted Pyotr Ilyichev, head of the international organizations department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, as saying that Russia is ready to facilitate the navigation of foreign commercial ships to export Ukrainian grain.

He added that Russia wanted to control and inspect ships to rule out “arms smuggling”. The RIA news agency quoted another diplomatic source as saying that Russia’s demands include removing “barriers to exports” created by Western sanctions.

“There are obstacles for the Russian side in the areas of ship insurance, logistics, transportation services and banking due to the imposed sanctions,” the RIA source said.

Russia has continued to export grain since the start of the war, but it lacks large ships because many owners are afraid to send them to the region. The cost of freight and insurance has also risen sharply.

Ukraine on Tuesday raised hopes of increased grain exports despite Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports, noting that ships had started crossing a major mouth of the Danube.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was quoted by Spanish newspaper El Pais as saying that Kyiv was “one step away” from striking a deal with Moscow.

“Security issues, linked to Russia’s position, must be taken into account. We are in the final stage and now everything depends on Russia,” he said, adding that Moscow could still drag out the talks.

The Russian invasion and maritime blockade of Ukraine has blocked exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and more than 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos in Odessa.

Farmers in both countries are currently harvesting the 2022 wheat crop. July-November is usually the busiest time for traders to ship the new crop from both countries.

The upcoming harvest is also at risk as Ukraine now lacks storage space due to the halt in exports.

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