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Friday 2 June 2023 Dublin: 15°C
Xinhua News Agency/PA Images Negotiations take place between Ukrainian, Russian, UN and Turkish officials on the grain deal reached today
# War in Ukraine
Zelenskyy says UN responsible for guaranteeing Russia-Ukraine grain deal
President Michael D Higgins welcomed the agreement between Russia and Ukraine this evening.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 22nd 2022, 10:12 PM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy said the United Nations was responsible for guaranteeing a landmark deal between Ukraine and Russia aimed at unblocking Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports and alleviating a global food crisis.

“Russia could engage in provocations, attempts to discredit the Ukrainian and international efforts. But we trust the United Nations. Now it’s their responsibility to guarantee the deal,” he said in his daily video address.

Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on Black Sea grain exports in Istanbul on Friday, with Turkey and the UN as co-guarantors.

Both countries are major exporters of agricultural products, but the war has severely disrupted Ukrainian wheat exports as the fighting damaged harvests and left ports blocked and mined.

The warring parties signed two separate but identical texts, with Ukraine refusing to sign the same document as the Russians.

Zelenskyy said the deal was “entirely” in Ukraine’s interests and that the Ukrainian military would fully control access to the ports.

He added that around 20 million tonnes of produce from last year’s harvest and the current crop would be exported thanks to the agreement, estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stock at around $10 billion.

“There is a chance to reduce the seriousness of the food crisis caused by Russia and prevent a global catastrophe — a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries, particularly those that help us,” he said.

“It’s another demonstration that Ukraine is capable of resisting this war.”

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said grain exports from Black Sea ports could resume within days.

“The agreement was signed under our conditions. There has not been any betrayal,” he said.

Diplomats expect grain to start fully flowing for the first time since Russia’s invasion of its Western-backed neighbour by the middle of August.

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea — a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said as the deal was signed after months of laborious negotiations that threatened to break down several times.

“It will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine,” Guterres said.

The United Nations estimates that an additional 47 million people began to face “acute hunger” as a direct consequence of the war.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a key player in the negotiations who has good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv — said he hoped the deal would pave the way for eventual peace in Ukraine.

“This joint step we are taking with Ukraine and Russia will hopefully revive the path to peace,” the Turkish leader said.

The EU has cautiously welcomed the deal between the warring countries, with the bloc’s policy chief calling it a “step in the right direction”.

“Today’s Istanbul agreement is a step in the right direction. We call for its swift implementation,” tweeted Josep Borrell.

The deal has also been welcomed by President Michael D Higgins, who said those living on the Horn of Africa would appreciate it most.

“The signing today of the UN backed deal between Ukraine and Russia which could allow the export of millions of tonnes of grain to the Horn of Africa, which is so heavily dependent on grain from Ukraine and Russia will be so warmly welcomed by those not only in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, but by all global citizens who do not want to see the current invasion triggering what will inevitably result in famine, starvation and malnutrition,” said Higgins.

“It is time for those with the greatest capacity to follow the lead of smaller countries. It is after all such countries who have produced the greatest amount of emissions that has resulted in the desertification of the lands of countries who have been least responsible for the burning of our planet.

“Today provides a glimmer of hope, not only on these crucial issues of food security, but on the vital role of the United Nations and its taking of initiatives, and it is to be welcomed.”

The war is being fought across one of Europe’s most fertile regions by two of the world’s biggest producers of grain.

But Russian warships and Ukrainian mines laid across the sea to avert an amphibious assault have blocked exports and left up to 25 million tonnes of wheat and other grain in danger of rotting in ports and silos.

UN officials say it was quickly decided that de-mining the area would take too long to relieve the threat of starvation spreading to some of the poorest parts of the world.

The deal agreed through UN and Turkish mediation establishes safe corridors along which Ukrainian ships can come in and out of three designated Black Sea ports in and around Odessa.

Both sides also pledged not to attack ships on the way in or out.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak warned Russian breaches of the deal and incursions around Ukraine’s ports would be met with “an immediate military response”.

A joint command and control centre will be set up in Istanbul to oversee smooth operations and resolve disputes.

But all the pieces may not start coming together until next month. UN officials say Ukraine may send out a few ships at first to make sure the deal works.

“We’re talking about a few weeks before we’ll see a proper implementation of vessels going in and out,” one UN official said.

© AFP 2022

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