Negotiations on the global food crisis made progress on Wednesday as a preliminary agreement was reached between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations on opening three commercial ports in the Black Sea.
“In a world darkened by the global crisis, today we finally have a ray of hope,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York. “Today is an important and fundamental step and a step on the road towards a comprehensive agreement.”
The announcement comes after weeks of negotiations, facilitated by Turkey and in coordination with the United Nations in an urgent attempt to reopen shipping lanes in the Black Sea as the threat of a global food crisis mounts.
high–Level-level talks on the global food crisis in ‘final stage’ in Ukraine, Russia and Turkey talks
Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters of grain and cooking oil, has warned for months that it has millions of tons of grain hidden in storage facilities that have been unable to be exported due to the Russian naval blockade.
But Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday that a breakthrough had been reached in the agreements and that a coordination center would be established in Turkey to oversee the entry and exit of commercial ships.
The minister said officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations would participate in the coordination efforts.
Under the initial plan, Russia will agree to a ceasefire to allow three Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea to open to allow safe passage, the Wall Street Journal first reported.
Merchant ships would escort Ukrainian naval vessels that would sweep the waters in search of explosive mines – a precautionary measure taken after nearly 400 mines were released into the Black Sea by Russian forces earlier this year, although Moscow accused Kyiv Also by releasing its own power. Mines.
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The Turkish Navy will then inspect all ships bound for Ukraine to ensure that no weapons are being smuggled.
The United Nations will oversee a command and control center in Istanbul to monitor the security situation as the Russian war continues.
Guterres warned that “more technical work is now needed” to reach a final agreement, but added that “the momentum is clear.”
“I’m encouraged. I’m optimistic, but it’s not completely over yet,” he added.
The final hurdle will come in the form of getting the green light from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will need to sign the agreement.
The Wall Street Journal reports that officials believe Putin may give his stamp of approval next week when he is scheduled to travel to Iran and meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the plan and said in his evening speech: “If they succeed in removing the Russian threat to shipping in the Black Sea, it will reduce the severity of the global food crisis.”
“We will agree on the details with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the coming days,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.