Turkey says deal is close to allowing grain to be exported from Russian-blocked Ukrainian ports

Details of the upcoming deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey with Russia and Ukraine, have not yet been disclosed.

The agreement will be signed on Friday morning local time in Istanbul, the Turkish Communications Authority said.

However, additional talks are expected before the deal is signed, a senior Ukrainian official warned.

“According to the results of the negotiations, a document may be signed that will contain the obligations of the parties regarding the safe operation of export routes in the Black Sea,” Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday evening.

Nikolenko stressed that the Ukrainian delegation “will support only those decisions that will guarantee the security of the southern regions of Ukraine, the strong positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Black Sea and the safe export of Ukrainian agricultural products to world markets. “

US launches initiative to support Ukrainian farmers affected by war with Russia

UN Secretary-General António Guterres traveled to Istanbul on Thursday to work on improving access to Ukrainian and Russian food. According to spokesman Farhan Haq, the parties sought to reach “an agreement that would allow Ukrainian and Russian food and fertilizers to enter world markets.”

Ukraine and Russia are important food suppliers in the world. In normal times Ukraine, known as one of the world’s breadbaskets, would export about three-quarters of its grain production. According to the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped by sea, from the Ukrainian ports of the Black Sea.

Russia is currently blocking maritime access to these ports, meaning that millions of tons of Ukrainian grain cannot be exported to the many countries that depend on it.

The United Nations warned last month that by disrupting Ukrainian agricultural production and blocking the export of remaining produce, Russia’s war in Ukraine could lead to starvation or famine-like conditions for 49 million people.

Western officials have accused Russia of deliberately strangling the global supply chain. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said food was part of the Kremlin’s “arsenal of terror” and the US accused him of “turning food into a weapon.”

The US on Thursday welcomed the “agreement in principle” but State Department spokesman Ned Price warned that the deal was “still very early” and said Washington would focus on “holding Russia accountable for implementing this agreement.”

European officials familiar with the discussions also expressed optimism about the agreement, but raised concerns about its implementation.

Officials have said that Russia is unlikely to implement the agreement without any problems.

Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood of CNN contributed to the story.