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Agreements on the exports of Ukrainian grain: what is known by now

Delegations from Russia, Ukraine and Turkey met with U.N. officials in Istanbul. Bhoto: Turkish Defense Ministry

Delegations from Russia, Ukraine and Turkey met with U.N. officials in Istanbul. Bhoto: Turkish Defense Ministry

Representatives from Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, and the United Nations agreed upon key aspects of a plan to resume exports of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, senior Turkish and U.N. officials said. This was written in an article by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The Minister of National Defense of Turkey said that at a meeting in Istanbul, officials from the four parties agreed to establish a coordination center in Istanbul where their representatives would oversee shipments of grain.

This understanding is the first concrete breakthrough in weeks of diplomacy led by the U.N., the WSJ points out.

"In a world darkened by global crisis, today at last we have a ray of hope," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said. "Today is an important and substantive step, a step on the way to a comprehensive agreement."

The parties to the negotiations said that the talks concluded with an agreement on broad parameters of how grain can be exported through Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, but cautioned that any deal still needs to be signed off by Putin.

This could happen when the Russian leader meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan next week in Tehran.

Under the broad agreement reached on Wednesday, July 13, grain could ship from three Ukrainian ports in convoys escorted by Ukrainian vessels, with a cease-fire to protect vessels within geographical limits and some minesweeping in certain water areas around ports.

The Turkish navy would inspect the ships arriving at Ukrainian ports to address Russia’s concerns that the vessels could be used to transport weapons. The U.N. will establish a command and control center in Istanbul to monitor threat levels to the shipping.

Technical details remain to be ironed out, including how mines laid around Ukrainian ports will be cleared. Ukraine had originally told the U.N. that a safe passage could be charted through their minefields.

A person familiar with the talks said an agreement could be signed in the coming days after some technical details are ironed out, but cautioned, "It would be wrong to say an agreement is imminent."

Yoruk Isik, an Istanbul-based maritime expert tracking the talks, said at least a couple of weeks of demining would be needed before a corridor could open and minesweepers would be needed to work around the clock on the corridor. He said one solution to Ukraine’s security concerns would be to station a Turkish or Romanian warship near the port city of Odesa.

"The strong position of our military in the Black Sea will allow the return of safe navigation of ships," said Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President’s chief of staff.

The Russian delegation to the talks "submitted for consideration a package of proposals for the fastest possible practical solution to this issue," said the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman. He didn’t provide details about the proposals.

The July 13 meeting is the result of weeks of diplomacy by Turkish, U.N., and Western officials. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the grain issue with the presidents of Ukraine and Russia in phone calls on Monday, July 11, Erdogan’s office said.

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