Ukraine and Russia brokered a deal Friday to reopen blockaded Black Sea ports — likely averting a worsening worldwide food crisis.
The agreement — the result of separate agreements signed by each nation with Turkey and the United Nations — will allow for the safe passage of both Ukrainian and Russian cargo ships in the Black Sea.
The deal is expected to allow Ukraine to ship some 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products that have been stuck in port since the war begin in February.
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a signing ceremony in Istanbul. “A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”
The plan will open up safe shipping routes from Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny, three Ukrainian-controlled ports on the nation’s southwest coast.
It establishes a control center in Turkey, staffed by Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish representatives, as well as UN observers, to coordinate shipping. Incoming ships will be inspected for weapons, according to the terms of the deal.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, stressed Friday that there would be no Russian representatives in Ukrainian-controlled ports, and cargo traffic would not be escorted by Russian warships. Ukrainian officials have feared a Russian attempt to land troops in Odessa since the early days of the war.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of grain — specifically wheat and corn — as well as sunflower oil. The war has driven up food prices, especially in the developing world where pandemic-related supply chain problems have already caused a shortage.
Guterres said the deal would “bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine.”
The US State Department said Friday that it welcomed the deal in principle.
“What we’re focusing on now is holding Russia accountable for implementing this agreement and for enabling Ukrainian grain to get to world markets,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “It has been for far too long that Russia has enacted this blockade.”
With Post wires