ISTANBUL (AP) — Russia and Ukraine were due to sign separate agreements Friday with Turkey and the United Nations that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments to world markets and Russia to export grain and fertilizer, ending a stalemate that threatened global food security amid war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Russian military delegations reached an agreement in principle last week on a UN plan this would allow Ukraine to export 22 million tonnes of desperately needed grain and other agricultural products which have been blocked in Black Sea ports due to the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have planned to attend the grain export signing ceremony in Istanbul. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov were due to sign the agreement for their countries.
“In a short time…we will overcome the difficulties regarding the agricultural corridor and the grain issue,” Erdogan said. “With these signatures, we will give the world good news.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian president, said Ukraine and Russia would sign separate agreements.
“Ukraine is not signing any documents with Russia,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter, adding that his country would sign an agreement with Turkey and the UN, with Russia signing a separate “mirror agreement”.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion of the country in February and its naval blockade of Ukrainian ports halted shipments. Some grains are transported across Europe by rail, road and river, but the prices of vital commodities like wheat and barley soared during the nearly five-month war.
The agreement includes provisions for the safe passage of ships through the Black Sea. A control center in Istanbul, which will be staffed by UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials, will be created to lead and coordinate the process, Turkish officials said. Ships would be subject to inspections to ensure they were not carrying weapons.
Podolyak insisted that no Russian ships would escort the cargo ships and that no Russian representatives would be in Ukrainian ports. Ukraine also plans an immediate military response “in case of provocations”, he said.
António Guterres first spoke of the critical need to bring Ukrainian agricultural production and Russian grain and fertilizer back to world markets in late April during meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
He offered a deal in early June amid fears the war would endanger food supplies for many developing countries and could worsen hunger for up to 181 million people.
Russian and Ukrainian officials blamed each other for blocking grain shipments. Moscow accused Ukraine of failing to remove sea mines from its ports to allow safe shipping and insisted on its right to screen incoming ships for weapons. Ukraine argued that Russia’s port blockade and its launching of missiles at Ukrainian cities from the Black Sea made any cargo unsafe.
Ukraine has asked for international guarantees that the Kremlin will not use safe corridors to attack the port of Odessa on the Black Sea. Ukrainian authorities have also accused Russia of stealing grain in eastern Ukraine and deliberately bombing Ukrainian fields to set them on fire and ruin the harvest.
Russian officials said Putin promised not to attack grain ships, but Ukrainian officials noted that the Russian leader also denied earlier this year that he intended to attack Ukraine.
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday outlined Kyiv’s conditions for supporting the plan.
The Ukrainian delegation “will only support decisions that will guarantee the security of the southern regions of Ukraine, the strong position of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Black Sea and the safe export of Ukrainian agricultural products to world markets,” Oleh said. Nikolenko to reporters. .
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States welcomes the deal, in principle.
“But what we are focused on now is holding Russia accountable for implementing this deal and allowing Ukrainian grain to access global markets. It’s been far too long since Russia has had this blockade,” Price said.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine