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Progress made at Ukrainian grain export talks

Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey hailed progress at talks aiming to resume Black Sea grain exports blocked by Russia and ease the risk of starvation faced by millions.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday an agreement would be signed next week. Ankara will ensure the safety of shipments in transit and the parties will jointly check grain cargoes in ports.

Chief of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres said that even though the agreement is a critical step forward, it still requires a lot of good will and commitments by all parties for it to be put into force, hence more work was needed before a deal was finalised.

Before progress in grain export talks was announced, diplomats said the plan under discussion included Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships through mined port waters; Russia agreeing to a truce while shipments move; and Turkey – supported by the United Nations – inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of weapons smuggling.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued an optimistic comment, stating that the delegation in his country has reported progress and will agree on the details with the UN secretary-general in the coming days.

Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s Chief of staff said on Twitter that a joint coordination centre with Russia and the United Nations would be set up to carry out general monitoring and coordination of safe navigation in the Black Sea.

Russia’s defence ministry, however, did not immediately offer comment.

Apart from being major global wheat suppliers, Russia is also a large fertilizer exporter and Ukraine a significant producer of corn and sunflower oil, hence, a deal is seen as vital for food security, notably among developing nations, and for stabilising markets.

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