Istanbul: Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements in Istanbul Friday with Turkey and the United Nations to resume grain shipments to international markets via the Black Sea.
The agreement has ended a wartime standoff that had threatened food security in several countries and cleared the way for exporting tons of Ukrainian grains. The ceremony in Istanbul was witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan whereas Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate deals with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, The Washington Post reported.
"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.
In a further statement, Guterres said that the "Black Sea Initiative," would open a path for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny and would also bring relief to developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people at the brink of famine.
"It will help stabilize global food prices which were already at record levels even before the war - a true nightmare for developing countries," Guterres added.
The deal will enable Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products that have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to the war.
According to the Washington Post, Ukrainian and Russian military delegations had reached a tentative agreement the previous week on a UN plan that would allow Russia to export its grain and fertilizers.
Notably, the deal will create provisions for the safe passage of ships. Moreover, a control centre will be established in Istanbul, staffed by UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials, to run and coordinate the process and the ships would undergo inspections to ensure they are not carrying weapons.
Ukraine is regarded as the "breadbasket of Europe" supplying 10 per cent of the world's wheat, 12-17 per cent of the world's maize and half of the world's sunflower oil. Twenty-five million tonnes of corn and wheat - the entire annual consumption of all the least developed countries.
The West accused that Russia's actions have driven up prices in countries like the UK and the ongoing blockade has placed 47 million people around the world on the brink of humanitarian disaster.
In addition to preventing grain from leaving Ukraine via the Black Sea - the route by which 96 per cent of Ukraine's grain has historically been exported, Russian attacks are disrupting rail exports.
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, security experts say one of Moscow's earliest strategic aims quickly became apparent as its armoured columns advanced along the coast in an effort to seize Ukraine's coastline.
The seizure of ports would strangle Ukraine economically at a time when it most needs the funds to fend off Russia. After more than four months of the conflict, two of Ukraine's five main commercial ports have been taken and both are in the northeast of the Black Sea.