Historic deals for grain corridor signed in Istanbul
Ukraine and Russia, two neighboring countries in war since February, have signed two historic deals with Türkiye and the U.N. for the creation of a secure food corridor through the Black Sea under a comprehensive plan, dubbed the Black Sea Initiative, that would prevent a major global food crisis.
Ukraine and Russia signed two memorandums of understanding with Türkiye and the U.N. on July 22 to begin exporting their grains and other food products. The deal for Ukraine was signed by Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov and for Russia by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar signed the memorandums of understanding on behalf of Türkiye.
The ceremony held at the Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosporus observed the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, along with other Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian authorities. Guterres signed the deal on behalf of the U.N.
Erdoğan, in his speech, expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed to making these deals possible, including Russia, Ukraine and the U.N., saying, “We are all feeling the right proud of this initiative in resolving the global food crisis.”
The deals came following intense diplomacy carried out by Türkiye’s defense and foreign ministers, Erdoğan said, noting that thanks to these agreements, a new lifeline from the Black Sea to the world markets has been opened.
“The execution of this plan will be controlled through the Joint Coordination Center to be established in Istanbul in the coming days. The support of the international community is of vital importance for the success of this plan,” he said.
Erdoğan also stressed his expectation that the agreement signed in Istanbul will revive hopes for ending the war in Ukraine, noting, “As we have been saying since the beginning of this conflict, the prolongation of this war will lead to continued economic losses and human casualties. It will not only hurt the warring sides and the regional countries but all the world even in the most remote corners.”
“There will be no losers of a just peace,” he said, expressing his hope that these agreements will be a turning point in ending the conflict.
Guterres thanked Erdoğan in Turkish
For his part, Guterres started his speech by thanking Türkiye and Erdoğan for their persistent efforts to broker these deals, saying in Turkish “Çok teşekkür ederim,” meaning “Thank you very much.”
The deals did not come easy and should be implemented thoroughly in order to avoid a food crisis, Guterres said, stressing the role Türkiye will play in the implementation of this humanitarian mission in the Black Sea.
Despite these deals, the war continues and people are being killed every day, the U.N. chief said, underscoring the need for a comprehensive peace deal to end this tragedy.
Istanbul to coordinate operation
One of the most important aspects of the deals is the fact that the entire operation will be controlled through a coordination center to be established in Istanbul. It will host officials from Türkiye, Russia, Ukraine and the U.N. so that the process and the maritime safety of the vessels from and to Ukraine can be jointly monitored.
This center will also check the cargo of vessels on their way to the world markets and to the Ukrainian ports in Odesa, Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk. Russia was concerned that Ukraine-bound empty vessels could carry weapons and military equipment.
As the demining of these ports will take time, the parties agreed that the commercial vessels will be guided by the Ukrainian navy until they reach a secured corridor in the Black Sea. While these operations continue, the two warring sides will not attack each other.
“No transport escort by Russian ships and no presence of Russian representatives in our ports. In case of provocations, an immediate military response. All inspections of transport ships will be carried out by joint groups in Turkish waters in the event of such a need,” Mykhailo Podolyak, the head advisor of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Twitter.
120 days valid, open to renewal
The deal will be valid for 120 days but will be renewed automatically. This is needed for uninterrupted shipment of food and fertilizers to the world market which has been suffering from soaring prices due to the Ukrainian war.
In the first phase, Ukraine is planning to ship around 25 million tons of wheat to the world markets. The country is one of the largest wheat producers and is in a process of harvesting new products. Many countries in Africa depend on Ukrainian and Russian wheat to escape the shortage of food.
UN-Russia to sign separate document
Russia also signed a separate memorandum of understanding with the U.N. and Türkiye so that its shipment of food and fertilizer can be exported without any problems stemming from the existing sanctions.
As a result of U.N. efforts, both the United States and the European Union provided assurances that there will be no sanctions on the companies and vessels transporting Russian products to the world markets. Banking and insurance procedures will also be exempted from the sanctions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had said his country could export around 50 million tons of wheat until the end of this year.
US urges Russia to implement Ukraine grain deal ’swiftly’
The United States called on Russia to let out Ukrainian grain quickly and voiced hope that a Turkish-brokered deal was well-structured enough to monitor compliance.
"We fully expect the implementation of today’s arrangement to commence swiftly to prevent the world’s most vulnerable from sliding deeper into insecurity and malnutrition," White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
"We’re hopeful that this is going to make a difference. But we’re clear-eyed about it," he said.