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Some Progress in Ukraine Grain Talks, Negotiators Meet Again Next Week

Jared Malsin, Alistair MacDonald and Stephen Kalin reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations agreed on key aspects of a plan to resume exports of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, senior Turkish and U.N. leaders said.

At a meeting in Istanbul, officials from the four parties agreed to establish a coordination center in Istanbul where their representatives would oversee outbound shipments of grain, Turkey’s defense minister said.

“The understanding is the first concrete breakthrough in weeks of diplomacy led by the U.N. and Turkey aimed at easing a global food crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The fighting has trapped millions of tons of grain in the country, curbing supplies and raising prices on international markets.”

The Wall Street Journal (Page A*- July 14, 2022).

Today’s article explained that, “Under the broad agreement reached Wednesday, grain could ship from three Ukrainian ports in convoys escorted by Ukrainian vessels, with a cease-fire to protect vessels within geographical limits and some minesweeping, a person familiar with the talks said.

“The Turkish navy would inspect empty ships arriving at Ukrainian ports to address concerns from Russia that the vessels could be used to transport Western arms to Kyiv’s forces. The U.N. will establish a command and control center in Istanbul to monitor threat levels to the shipping.

Technical details remain to be ironed out, including how mines laid around Ukrainian ports will be cleared, the person familiar with the talks said. Ukraine had originally told the U.N. that a safe passage could be charted through their minefields, but so-called floating mines will also have to be cleared, the Western official said.”

Bloomberg writers Beril Akman, Megan Durisin, and Daryna Krasnolutska reported yesterday that, “Negotiations over unblocking millions of tons of Ukraine’s grain exports were constructive, according to Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey, marking an initial step forward in bolstering global food supplies and aiding the country’s beleaguered farm sector.”

The Bloomberg article pointed out that, “There has been no statement issued yet from the Kremlin on the outcome of Wednesday’s talks;” and added that: “Talks over unblocking the ports have been pressing on for months already, and the situation is getting worse. Ukraine is already sitting on at least 22 million tons of grains ready for export while starting the new harvest last month. Ukraine has demanded firm security guarantees that Russian troops won’t attack its ports once it de-mines passages to them. Russia has already damaged some grain terminals at Ukrainian ports with missiles, making future shipments more difficult.”

“Wartime Harvest Starts in Ukraine But Silos Are Already Stuffed,” by Megan Durisin and Volodymyr Verbyany. Bloomberg News (June 19, 2022).

Also yesterday, Associated Press writers Ayse Wieting, Suzan Fraser and Edith M. Lederer reported that, “U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the first meeting in weeks between Russia and Ukraine took ‘a critical step’ forward Wednesday to ensuring the export of desperately needed grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to help ease the global food crisis.

“Turkey’s defense minister said agreements would be signed when negotiators meet again in Istanbul next week.”

The AP article noted that, “Guterres proposed a package deal in early June to unblock shipments of Ukrainian wheat and other food crops from the Black Sea and lift restrictions on Russia’s exports of grain and fertilizer. He kept tight-lipped about progress — until Wednesday.”

Experts have cautioned that an agreement will not have an immediate impact. It will take time to ensure there are no mines in the Black Sea shipping channel, and then to get cargo ships to Odesa, Ukraine’s largest Black Sea port. Inspections will have to be done and arrangements made for shipping out the 22 million tons of grain that Ukraine’s president says are now in silos,” the AP article said.

And Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Michael Schwirtz reported in today’s New York Times that, “Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met on Wednesday in an increasingly desperate effort to release huge stores of grain blocked by Russian warships, yielding what the United Nations secretary general called ‘a ray of hope’ but no formal agreement that could alleviate rising world hunger.

“After Ukraine-Russia Meeting, U.N. Sees ‘a Ray of Hope’ to Free Grain,” by Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Michael Schwirtz. The New York Times (July 13, 2022).

“Wednesday’s meeting, held in Istanbul with U.N. representatives and military officials from Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, had raised hopes for a breakthrough. It ended with progress, the U.N. official said, but no comprehensive deal.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the social media manager for the farmdoc project at the University of Illinois. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily FarmPolicy.com News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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