As the global food crisis intensifies, military delegates from Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey will meet with United Nations officials in Istanbul on Wednesday to negotiate a potential compromise to restart safe shipments of Ukraine grain from the strategic Black Sea port of Odesa.

The meeting was announced on Tuesday by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. Turkey has been collaborating with the United Nations to reach an agreement after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 raised worldwide prices for cereals, cooking oils, gasoline, and fertilizer.

According to diplomats, aspects of the proposal being considered include Ukrainian boats escorting grain ships in and out of mined port waters; Russia agreeing to a ceasefire while cargo move; and Turkey inspecting ships to satisfy Russian worries of weapons smuggling, which is endorsed by the UN.

“We are working hard indeed but there is still a way to go,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Tuesday. “Many people are talking about it. We prefer to try and do it.”

Ukraine and Russia are major worldwide wheat suppliers, with Russia being a major fertilizer exporter and Ukraine a substantial maize and sunflower oil producer.

Russia’s invasion and naval blockade of Ukraine has halted shipments, stranding dozens of ships and trapping more than 20 million tonnes of grain in Odesa silos.

The next crop is also jeopardized since Ukraine is running out of storage space as a result of the export ban.

Even if an agreement is reached to restore Ukrainian exports, officials believe ships and insurance firms would need guarantees before resuming commerce due to the hazards of transiting mined waterways. Ukraine is concerned that demining its ports would make it significantly more exposed to Russian Black Sea attacks.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry emphasized the significance of the United Nations in the discussions on Tuesday, as well as the necessity for “a solution that will guarantee the security of the southern regions of our country,” spokeswoman Oleg Nikolenko told Reuters.

Last month, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that Moscow can “provide safe passage” for food supplies to Ukraine, but that Moscow is not responsible for building the corridors. 

The UN is also seeking to assist Russian food and fertilizer shipments, which Moscow claims are being hampered by Western sanctions.

The US maintains Russian grain and fertilizer are not sanctioned and has issued shipping firms and importing nations formal guarantees.

Source: Reuters

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