Amid War, Ukraine And Russia Sign Deal To Relieve Global Food Crisis

Amid war, Ukraine and Russia sign deal to alleviate global food crisis

The hostility between Moscow and Kiev spilled over into the signing ceremony. AFP

Istanbul:

Ukraine and Russia signed a landmark deal on Friday aimed at alleviating a global food crisis caused by blocked grain deliveries to the Black Sea, ending months of negotiations and pushing wheat prices down to levels last seen before the end of the war. invasion of Moscow.

The first major deal between the warring factions since the invasion of Ukraine in February should help alleviate the “acute hunger” that the war has left an additional 47 million people facing, according to the United Nations.

Hostility between Moscow and Kiev seeped into the signing ceremony — which was briefly delayed by disputes over the hanging of flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document as the Russians.

The two sides eventually signed separate but identical agreements in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Istanbul’s lavish Dolmabahce Palace.

“Today there is a beacon on the Black Sea — a beacon of hope, a beacon of opportunity, a beacon of relief,” Guterres said just before the signing.

Erdogan – a key player in the negotiations who has good relations with both Moscow and Kiev – said the deal “hopefully revives the road to peace”.

But Ukraine entered the ceremony by bluntly warning that it would provide “an immediate military response” if Russia violated the agreement and attacked its ships or staged a raid on its ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said that responsibility for enforcing the deal would lie with the UN, which is a co-guarantor of the deal with Turkey.

20 million tons of wheat

The agreement includes points about allowing Ukrainian grain ships to sail along secure corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.

Large amounts of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and land mines Kiev has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

Zelensky said about 20 million tons of last year’s crop and the current crop would be exported under the agreement, with the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks estimated at about $10 billion.

After the deal, wheat prices fell to levels last seen before the Russian invasion, even as some analysts were skeptical about the deal.

In Chicago, the price of wheat for September delivery fell 5.9 percent to $7.59 per bushel, which is equivalent to about 27 kilograms. Prices in Europe fell by a similar amount.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media after attending the signing ceremony that he expected the deal to start working “within a few days”.

He pointed out that Russia had managed to get a separate promise from Washington and Brussels to lift all restrictions on its own grain and other agricultural exports.

The United States and European countries welcomed the agreement and urged Moscow to abide by the rules.

A US official said the deal was “well-structured” enough to monitor Russian compliance.

The European Union called for a “quick implementation” of the deal, while British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said London “will watch to ensure that Russia’s actions match its words”.

Guarded Hope

Diplomats expect the grain to start flowing in full until mid-August.

The four sides must first set up a joint command and control center in Istanbul to monitor the passage of the ships and settle disputes.

They have yet to finalize how the ships will be checked for weapons before returning empty to Ukrainian ports.

Ukrainian farmers who have watched their silos fill up with grain they can’t sell met the Istanbul deal with cautious hopes.

“It gives some hope, but you can’t believe what the Russians are saying,” said farmer Mykola Zaverukha.

His silos were already filled with 13,000 tons of grain and were in danger of overflowing as this year’s crop began to arrive.

“Russia is unreliable, they have proven that year after year,” he told AFP in the southern region of Mykolaiv.

Global alarm over that grain has been accompanied by European fears that Russia is beginning to use its stranglehold on energy exports as a geopolitical weapon in its standoff with the West.

The grain deal was signed a day after Russia’s restart of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline allayed concerns in Europe about a permanent shutdown after a 10-day suspension of maintenance.

Analysts say the partial resumption of gas supplies was not enough to avert energy shortages in Europe this winter.

More US military aid

The ornate halls of Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace felt far removed from the war zone of Donbas in eastern Ukraine on another day of relentless shelling at the front.

Russia is trying to fight deeper into the Donetsk region of the war zone after taking full control of neighboring Lugansk.

On Friday, the United States signed on for an additional $270 million in military aid to Ukraine, including missile systems, artillery ammunition and armored command posts.

The Ukrainian presidency said five people were killed and ten injured in Russian attacks around the Donetsk region the previous day.

In the Donetsk village of Chasiv Yar – hit by a strike on July 10 that killed more than 45 people – Lyudmila, 64, was collecting apricots from the wreckage.

‘There’s nothing left. The officials have left. We have to take care of ourselves to stay alive,’ she said, using only her first name.

The military toll on both sides has remained speculative since Russia invaded on February 24.

US and British spy guides believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has suffered greater losses than expected.

Ukraine’s war effort has been aided in recent weeks by the supply of US precision weapons that will allow Kiev to destroy Russian weapon silos at great distances.

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)

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