ISTANBUL/KYIV (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark deal on Friday to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that an international food crisis aggravated by the Russian invasion can be eased.
UN chief Antonio Guterres called it an “agreement for the world,” aimed at restoring Ukrainian grain exports… and easing Russian grain and fertilizer shipments despite Western sanctions.
“This initiative must be fully implemented, because the world so desperately needs it to tackle the global food crisis.”
The deal ensures safe passage in and out of Odesa and two other Ukrainian ports in what one UN official called a “de facto ceasefire.”
Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s biggest exporters of food.
A blockade of Ukraine’s ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet has hurt global supply chains.
Moscow – which invaded Ukraine in February in what it called a ‘special military operation’ – has denied responsibility for the food crisis.
It instead blamed Western sanctions imposed for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports.
The hope is Friday’s landmark deal can help avert famine for tens of millions of people.
It caps off two months of talks brokered by the UN and Turkey — a NATO member that has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov highlighted its potential to help with food security.
“We hope that in the coming period all the necessary efforts will be made for the effective implementation of these agreements.// Given the significant share of Russian and Ukrainian agricultural products on global markets, ensuring their uninterrupted export meets the urgent tasks of maintaining food security…”
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said it was made possible by recent military success.
“All of this wouldn’t be possible if not for the successes of our Armed Forces and our Naval Forces. A particularly important moment was the liberation of Snake Island.”
UN officials said the deal should be up and running within a few weeks.