Progress was made Wednesday toward an agreement to open up Ukraine’s main Black Sea ports and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says a deal could be struck soon.
“If we manage to remove the Russian threat to navigation in the Black Sea, it will remove the severity of the world food crisis,” Zelensky said in a televised address that was posted to YouTube Thursday. “The Ukrainian delegation informed me there is some progress.”
Millions of tons of wheat and corn remain trapped in Ukrainian storage facilities because the country’s primary ports in Odesa and Mykolaiv are blocked by a Russian naval blockade. Ukraine is managing to export some grain by hauling it south to the Danube River or west to ports in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Only a fraction of Ukraine’s normal exports are getting out, and the country has already begun this year’s wheat harvest.
“We are indeed making significant efforts to restore the supply of food to the world market and I am grateful to the United Nations and Turkey for their respective efforts,” Zelensky said. “The success of this story is needed not only by our state, but also … by the whole world.”
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Countries in Africa and the Middle East, which are especially dependent on exports from Ukraine, have seen prices rise sharply since the Russian invasion began.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a tweet that some details have already been agreed upon, such as a “establishing a coordination center in Istanbul where representatives of all parties will be located” in order to ensure “navigational safety on the transfer routes.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed optimism after the meeting Wednesday in Istanbul, saying, “we have seen a major step forward to ensure the export of Ukrainian food products through the Black Sea. I salute the commitment of all those working to secure an agreement for our common humanity.”
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