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Russia-Ukraine Grain Deal Offers First Break in Sanctions Logjam

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EIRNS—Meeting at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace early this afternoon, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu signed a breakthrough agreement that will allow grain, foodstuffs and fertilizers to be shipped from three Ukrainian ports to world markets. A second agreement was signed that will facilitate export of Russian grain and fertilizers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who brokered the deal, were also present at the signing ceremony. There is cautious optimism and hopefulness that this arrangement can move forward unimpeded, to provide these urgently needed products, especially to developing nations suffering from food shortages and high prices.

During the meeting, the Washington Post reported, Guterres proclaimed “there is a beacon on the Black Sea, a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever. It will bring relief to developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy, and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine.” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, told reporters in New York that she welcomed the deal, but then snarled, “we will be watching closely to make sure that Russia follows through with any commitments it made,” the Wall Street Journal reported her as saying.

The agreement will last for 120 days and can be renewed without further negotiation. This is sufficient time for 25 million tons of Ukrainian wheat and other grains to be exported from Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny—the only three Ukrainian ports that will be used. Only ships used to export grains, food products and fertilizers will be allowed to remain in those ports. There will be no de-mining of the ports; rather ships will be escorted through safe corridors by the Ukrainian navy or coast guard, avoiding known minefields, until they are outside the country’s territorial waters.

As a condition for signing the agreement, Russia had stipulated that every ship must be inspected to ensure that none were smuggling weapons into Ukraine. This will take place at two Turkish ports specified for that purpose and representatives of all parties will be involved in the inspections. Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak told Sputnik that no Russian ship will serve as an escort and no Russian representative will be present in Ukrainian ports.

A control and coordination center will also be established in Istanbul as part of the agreement, to be staffed by UN, Russian, Turkish and Ukrainian officials to handle all aspects of the operation, ship rotation schedules, etc. France24 reports that it will take three to four weeks before the system will be fully operational.