Ukraine and Russia ended Friday by signing, with Turkey and the UN, the agreement on the export of Ukrainian cereals to the Black Sea, during an unprecedented ceremony between countries at war.
kyiv and Moscow signed two identical but separate texts at the request of Ukraine, which refused to initial any document with Russia.
The four delegations met in the grounds of Dolmabahçe Palace, on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, in the presence of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as Turkish and Russian Ministers of Defense and Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure.
The ceremony took place under the flags of the protagonists, those of Russia and Ukraine, carefully separated by the blue banners of the UN and the red of Turkey, which has offered itself as a mediator since the beginning of the Russian invasion, February 24.
This agreement, fiercely negotiated since April under the leadership of Antonio Guterres, who arrived urgently in Istanbul on Thursday evening, will relieve the countries dependent on the Russian and Ukrainian markets – 30% of the world wheat trade between them.
The UN boss thanked Russia and Ukraine for “overcoming their differences to make way for an initiative at the service of all”.
Now the deal “must be fully implemented”he pleaded.
Erdogan acknowledged that it had “not been easy” to get there, and hoped that the signing of this agreement, which comes almost five months after the start of the conflict, would “strengthen the hope of ending to this war.
According to the World Food Program (WFP), an additional 47 million people are at risk of “acute hunger” since the start of the war.
” Unprecedented ”
A few hours before the ceremony, Ukraine clarified that it would not sign “any document with Russia”, but only with Turkey and the UN. The Russians have initialed an identical agreement with these two parties.
Guterres, however, noted the “unprecedented” nature of this agreement between two countries at war.
Under this agreement, “safe corridors” allow the circulation of merchant ships in the Black Sea, “both parties have pledged not to attack”said a United Nations official who requested anonymity.
The negotiators gave up on clearing the Black Sea of mines — mostly laid by the Ukrainians to protect their coasts: “Clearing mines would have taken too long “, justified the UN, which specified that “Ukrainian pilots”would pave the way for freighters in territorial waters.
Ukraine has suggested that its exports start from three ports — Odessa, Pivdenny and Chornomorsk — and hopes to increase their number in the future.
The agreement will be valid for ” 120 days “four months, enough time to get out the 25 million tons piled up in silos in Ukraine as a new harvest approaches.
A Joint Coordination Center (JCC) is to be established this weekend in Istanbul with representatives from all parties and the United Nations.
Inspections of ships departing from and heading to Ukrainian ports will take place under the supervision of the CCC, in one of the ports of Istanbul, in order to meet the concerns of Moscow, which wants to be sure that the cargo ships will not bring arms to Ukraine.
A first round of negotiations between military experts from the three countries concerned and the UN took place on July 13 in Istanbul, from which a certain optimism emerged.
Then uncertainty prevailed after demands made by Moscow at the end of the Iran-Russia-Turkey tripartite summit on Tuesday in Tehran.
Russia has finally obtained guarantees that Western sanctions will not apply, either directly or indirectly, to its own exports of agricultural products and fertilizers.
“Even if Russian (agricultural) products are not affected by the sanctions, there are blockages concerning maritime transport, insurance and the banking system” explained Thursday the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu.
In addition, said a diplomat in New York, the United States has offered “guarantees” so that ships of large tonnage could be supplied to Russia to facilitate the export of its cereals and its fertilizers.
Due to the sanctions, international logistics companies that own such buildings are reluctant to work for Moscow.
The United States had welcomed the agreement on Thursday and warned that they held “Russia responsible for (its) implementation”.
But distrust remains in kyiv:“No Russian escort and no Russian presence in our ports. In case of provocation, immediate military response,”Mikhaïlo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, tweeted on Friday.