Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar on Wednesday dedicated a new centre in Istanbul to oversee the export of Ukrainian grains after a landmark UN deal last week, with the first shipment expected to depart from Black Sea ports within days.
Russia and Ukraine on Friday signed a deal, brokered by Ankara and the UN, to resume grain and fertiliser exports that had been blocked by war to ease an international food crisis.
The joint coordination centre (JCC) in Istanbul will oversee departures of grain from three Ukrainian ports, where ships will have to circumvent mines and be expected to conduct inspections of other incoming ships for weapons.
Just in A Joint Coordination Centre will be established in Turkey to oversee the release of grain as agreed by the deal between Moscow, Kyiv, Istanbul & United Nations. pic.twitter.com/rXwiiwNmuG
— ASOKORO Reporters (@AsokoroReporter) July 27, 2022
All vessels will be passing through Turkish waters and all parties will have appointed representatives at the JCC to monitor the implementation of this plan. A total of 20 personnel from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN will be working side-by-side at the centre.
Preparation is underway
Speaking at the National Defence University in central Istanbul’s Levent district, where the JCC is located, Mr Akar said more than 25 million tonnes of grain is waiting to be exported.
“Currently, the preparation and planning is continuing for the first ships laden with grain that will leave Ukrainian ports,” the official told reporters.
The deal was almost immediately thrown into jeopardy after Russia fired cruise missiles at the port of Odesa, Ukraine’s largest sea port, on Saturday morning, just 12 hours after the signing ceremony took place in Istanbul.
The cynical Russian attack on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, a day after signing the Istanbul agreements, tells us all about Russia’s credibility and its inability to be a respected member of the @UN and @OSCE abiding by international law and its own commitments.
— Polish OSCE Chairmanship 2022 (@PLinOSCE) July 23, 2022
Nevertheless, both Moscow and Kyiv have stated they will push forward with the agreement, a first major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict, which is now in its sixth month.