On Friday, Ukraine and Russia are due to sign a breakthrough agreement to help deal with the global food crisis caused by the blocking of Black Sea grain exports.
This is the first major deal between the warring parties since Russia’s February invasion of a neighboring country saw world food prices skyrocket and people in some of the world’s poorest countries face starvation.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres was scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Thursday for a signing ceremony at Istanbul’s luxurious Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosphorus.
This was confirmed on Twitter by the official representative of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin on Thursday evening.
In the course of the first direct talks since March between the military delegations of the warring parties, which were attended by representatives of Turkey and the UN last week in Istanbul, an initial project was developed to break the deadlock.
The parties were due to meet again this week for a possible signing of a formal agreement.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to derail the talks, warning on Tuesday that he expects any deal to also deal with his country’s blocked grain exports. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was also reticent about any potential deal, saying authorities in Kyiv were blocking talks.
A five-month war is being waged in one of the most fertile regions of Europe by two of the largest grain producers in the world.
Almost all grain is usually exported from the region via the Black Sea.
Ukrainian officials say they don’t trust Moscow
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu acknowledged Putin’s concerns on Thursday.
“When we resolve this issue, the way will open for the export of not only grain and sunflower oil from Ukraine, but also products from Russia,” he said.
When we resolve this issue, the way will open for the export of not only grain and sunflower oil from Ukraine, but also products from Russia.”
“Even if these Russian products are not affected by sanctions, there are blockages regarding maritime transport, insurance and the banking system,” Cavusoglu added. “The United States and the EU made promises to take them down.”
NATO member Turkey maintained good working relations with both Moscow and Kyiv throughout the conflict.
A member of the Kyiv delegation at the talks said that supplies could be resumed from three ports under full Ukrainian control.
“Export will be carried out through three ports: Odessa, Yuzhny and Chernomorsk. But in the future we hope that we will be able to expand them,” Ukrainian MP Rustem Umerov told reporters.
He added that a group of UN observers based in Istanbul would monitor the security of the supplies.
Umerov also said that Russian ships should not be allowed into Ukrainian waters as part of the proposed agreement.
“We do not trust them, even if they sign an agreement with the UN. This is an aggressor country,” he said.