Russia, Ukraine sign deals on resuming grain exports

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Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements Friday with Türkiye and the United Nations clearing the way for exporting millions of tons of desperately needed Ukrainian grain — as well as Russian grain and fertiliser.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Türkiye’s president, who had played a key role during months of tense negotiations, were both present for Friday’s signing ceremony.

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” Guterres said. “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,” he said, addressing the Russian and Ukrainian representatives.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but grain shipments are on hold due to the current situation in the country. Some grain is being transported through Europe by rail, road and river, but the prices of vital commodities like wheat and barley have soared in the past five months.

Some 400 million people are said to be dependent on grain imported from Ukraine, including those living in the Horn of Africa.

And according to a United Nations report released  in March, Russia contributed a third of Africa’s wheat imports between 2018 and 2020, with Ukraine adding another 12 percent.

The deal makes provisions for the safe passage of ships. It foresees the establishment of a control center in Istanbul, to be staffed by UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials, to run and coordinate the process, Turkish officials have said. Ships would undergo inspections to ensure they are not carrying weapons.

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