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Ukraine, Russia agree to sign deal in Istanbul to end grain crisis

US cautiously welcomes potential breakthrough, thanks to Turkish mediation, to allow safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.
Ukraine wheat

In a first major compromise since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the warring countries are set to sign a deal for the safe export of Ukrainian grain tomorrow, averting a looming food crisis.  

Ukrainian and Russian delegations, as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will meet in Istanbul tomorrow for the signing ceremony, Turkey’s Presidency announced today. 

Turkish President’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin described the deal as “critically important for global food security.” 

The deal will allow tens of millions of tons of grain stranded at Ukrainian ships and silos to be sold to world markets via a safe shipping corridor in the Black Sea. The Russian invasion has halted grain exports from Ukraine, one of the leading bread baskets of the world, stocking grain prices across the world amid dire warnings of a looming food crisis by the international community. 

The face-to-face talks began in Istanbul last week between the Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and UN officials. Turkey’s defense minister announced that the parties agreed on “fundamental technical” issues including establishment of a coordination center in Istanbul; joint security checks at entering and exiting points of ships; and ensuring navigational safety on shipping routes.

Officials have not elaborated the details of the deal.

Moscow has insisted Ukraine remove mines from its ports for the resumption of the exports. Ukraine, in turn, has asked for third-party security guarantees, saying removing mines without such a guarantee could pave the way for Russian assaults on its shores.

The United States cautiously hailed the deal, with the US State Department spokesman describing the move as a welcoming development.

"But what will really matter is the implementation of this agreement. We will of course continue to work with our partners to hold Russia accountable for its implementation," Ned Price said. “We applaud the diligent work of our Turkish allies." 

At a time when a potential Turkish military operation in northern Syria might sour Turkey’s ties with the United States, Russia and other countries including Iran, Ankara is aiming to elevate the country’s international standing once again after the Ukrainian-Russian peace talks the country hosted in March broke up without any progress.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the move was a “fruit” of his country’s diplomatic efforts under Erdogan’s presidency. “We will continue our efforts to resolve the conflict,” he wrote on Twitter.