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Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia (L) and Volodimir Zelenskyy of Ukraine
By Adeze Ojukwu
On Wednesday, an unprecedented agreement on the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, was signed.
Specifically, the historic initiative, allows for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
But it took a long and tedious way, to get to this point, largely due to efforts by the United Nations(UN) and Turkey.
This is the general view of many global leaders. United Nations(UN) Secretary-General António Guterres, a major player in this pact, stated this, at the signing ceremony in Istanbul, Türkiye, on Friday.
Despite the numerous benefits from this agreement, there are many complexities surrounding the implementation.
Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” the UN chief said, speaking prior to the signing. “A beacon of hope – a beacon of possibility – a beacon of relief — in a world that needs it more than ever.”
Mr. Guterres thanked President Erdogan and his government for facilitating the talks that led to the deal.
He commended the Russian and Ukrainian representatives for putting aside their differences in the common interests of humanity.
“The question has not been what is good for one side or the other,” he said. “The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world. And let there be no doubt – this is an agreement for the world.”
Ukraine is among the world’s leading grain exporters, supplying more than 45 million tonnes annually to the global market, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The Russian invasion, which began on 24 February, has sparked record food and fuel prices, as well as supply chain issues, with mountains of grain stocks stuck in silos.
In addition to stabilising global food prices, the agreement “will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine,” said Mr. Guterres.
“Since the war started, I have been highlighting that there is no solution to the global food crisis without ensuring full global access to Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertilizer.
The initiative specifically allows for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
The Secretary-General also announced the establishment of a Joint Coordination Centre to monitor implementation. It will be hosted in Istanbul and will include representatives from Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye.
Inspection teams will monitor the onloading of grain at the three ports. Ukrainian pilot vessels will guide the ships through the Black Sea, which is mined, after which they will head out through the Bosphorus Strait along an agreed corridor.
Ships going into the ports also will be inspected.
Mr. Guterres acknowledged “the long road” and weeks of around-the clock negotiations leading up to the landmark agreement.
In April, the Secretary-General met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to propose a plan. The UN has been “working every day since”, he said.
Two UN Task Forces were established in parallel on the talks – one focused on the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, which was led by UN humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths, and the other on facilitating access of Russian food and fertilizers, headed by Rebecca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the UN trade and development body, UNCTAD.